The Nostradamus Effect…don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Last night’s game certainly didn’t have the outcome it could or should have, did it? By all accounts, the game would still have been close, but the Rays should have won it by a run. There is a bright side; Tampa Bay took two out of three, and a series win at this point of the season is a must. Those creeping feelings over what should have happened, or could have been, are hard to suppress, aren’t they? Had the Rays won, they’d have ended the night only a half game out of first, not two and a half.

…And so it goes.

I posed the question in yesterday’s Noteworthiness: Why was Elliot Johnson in the game? Sure, understand the logic behind Joe Maddon going with EJ. After all, Roberts needed an off day. However, that’s what today was for. Considering that Johnson made a poor play on Monday, and that this was a rather important game, the choice of Roberts over Johnson seemed simple. I can already imagine what Joe Maddon would say, I’m not going to allow Elliot to be a lightning rod for criticism, yadayadayada. And true, hadn’t they gone 2-7 wRISP, stranding seven on the bags, we may not be having this conversation. Then again, the Yankees went 2-8 wRISP and still won the game. Which brings us back to Elliot Johnson.

Johnson committed 13 errors coming into last night’s game. Too, I think it’s safe to say that he doesn’t turn the best double plays, nor does he consistently throw on line. Johnson made two bumbling plays on the field and showed poor judgment at the plate with two on and one out. Johnson attempted a fateful sac bunt that didn’t advance the runner on second, or bring home Jeff Keppinger who was on third. He was however able to get the second out of the inning. Bunting is a calculated risk in any situation. If you’re attempting to lay down a bunt to the right side of the infield, you’d better make damn sure that you get it past the pitcher. That he didn’t do. It didn’t help that his two atrocious fielding plays (one a throwing error) were directly responsible for three runs. I’ll make it simple: EJ’s fielding numbers are down across the board. He doesn’t need to be in high leverage games, especially in a pennant race. Period.

Credit where it’s due, Johnson did own up to his mistakes,

“I knew Ichiro was running and the ball wasn’t hit particularly hard. I heard Luke [Scott] yelling [to throw home] and I saw him coming down and did my best to get rid of it as quickly as I could and get it there as fast as I could. It was one of those plays where you don’t want to throw it to the first base side of the plate because that just gives them an open lane to throw to, so I went to the third base side and went too far. It wasn’t a good throw and two runs came in…It was the play that cost us the game. You never want to be in one of these situations and you never want to be that guy, but I’m a grown man, I can handle this sort of stuff. It’s not something you ever want to do but you prepare for. I’ve done this sort of thing in the minor leagues and it’s nothing in comparison to this type of stage and this type of situation playing in September against the Yankees, who we are chasing.”

The fact remains, he never should have been in there. I’m still opining for what could have been, but it’s also time to move on. The Rangers come into town tomorrow for yet another big three game series between two potential contenders. More on the series after the stats.

Rays and Rangers series starters over the last 14 days.
Rays and Rangers hitting at home and away, (respectively) and over the last 14 days.
  • Look at the bright side, the Rays picked up a game on the Yankees…that’s a plus.
  • RHP prospect Chris Archer will join the Rays Friday. Archer gives the team a potential spot starter for the last month of the season. We probably won’t see him in this upcoming series, though it’s nice to know that the Rays have another quality pitcher in their back pocket just in case.
  • The Rays have gone 5-5 in their last 10 games, averaging 4.1 runs per game. The Rangers, on the other hand, have gone 6-4 in their last 10 games, averaging 5 runs per game.
  • Taking the bulleted point above into consideration, the Rays offense is looking competitive…especially when you compare the Rays over the last 14 days, with the Rangers numbers away from Arlington. With the exception of the smaller sample size, dare I say that Tampa Bay might actually pose an offensive threat to the Rangers?
  • Mike Napoli and Ian Kinsler are both on the DL or are day-to-day…not that their absence has really effected the Rangers offensive productivity.
  • The Rays have split six season meetings with the Rangers, all in Texas, and most recently lost two of three Aug. 27-29.
  • Derek Holland is part of a streak of five starts by the that have ended in Texas wins. He’s 3-0 with a 3.51 ERA in that stretch, getting 8.37 runs of support per nine innings.Holland got much more help than he needed Sunday in an 8-3 victory at Cleveland. He allowed two runs and scattered seven hits in seven innings. Then again, he also gave up five earned runs in his last start against the Rays, leaning on six runs by Beltre and Co to win the game. The Rays have notoriously beaten up on Holland (see the match-ups below) in the past.
  • Josh Hamilton is hitting .167 with one homer and 12 RBIs in 20 career games, five of which have come over the last two postseasons.
  • Beltre is still hot…yikes. It also bears mentioning that has a .341 average with six homers and 17 RBIs over his last 22 visits to Tropicana Field.
  • Yeah yeah, they played one another a little more than a week ago. And true, the Rays are facing the same pitchers. However, the Rays numbers against Holland, Darvish, and Harrison have changed if only slightly. So how do they match-up with the Rangers pitchers this time around?
  1. Derek Holland: The Rays have posted a .301 BA/.358 OBP/.593 SLG/.951 OPS line against, with 20 extra base hits including six homers, and 22 RBI in 123 total at-bats. Key match-ups: Matt Joyce (2-3, RBI), Jeff Keppinger (4-11, 2B, RBI), Evan Longoria (8-19, 4 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI), BJ Upton (8-17, 2 2B, 3B, HR, 3 RBI), Ben Zobrist (6-18, 2 2B, 3B, HR, 6 RBI)
  2. Yu Darvish: The Rays faced Darvish for the first time last week, posting a .240 BA/.296 OBP/.280 SLG/.576 OPS line. Oof. A few guys had some good at-bats against him though: Sam Fuld (2-2), Ryan Roberts (1-3), Luke Scott (1-2, 2B), Ben Zobrist (1-2, BB)
  3. Matt Harrison: The Rays have had a lot of success against Harrison in the past. In 96 combined at-bats, Tampa Bay has posted a .383 BA/.442 OBP/.617 SLG/1.059 OPS line, with five homers, five triples, and a double. They’ve driven in 17 and  walked 10 times. Key match-ups: Ben Francisco (3-6, 2 BB), Sam Fuld (1-3, 3B), Chris Gimenez (3-5, RBI), Desmond Jennings (4-6, BB), Elliot Johnson (3-6, 2B, HR, RBI), Jeff Keppinger (6-10), Evan Longoria (6-9, 2B, 3 HR, 9 RBI), BJ Upton (4-8, 2B, HR, 4 RBI, BB), Ben Zobrist (4-12, 2 2B, 2 RBI, BB)

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