Tampa Bay dropped the rubber match of the Tigers series Thursday by a score of 5-2, in gem of well pitched game by Max Scherzer. The same culprits that killed the Rays throughout the course of the series — Victor Martinez, Prince Fielder, and Miguel Cabrera — were responsible for Detroit’s five runs, while the Rays offense couldn’t muster enough umph in a game where a win was obtainable — at least when former Ray Joaquin Benoit took the mound in relief.
Roberto Hernandez was kind of blah on the mound. He had flashes of good stuff, especially between the last out of the first inning and the second out of the fourth inning, retiring eight consecutive batters on four strikeouts and four ground-outs. However Hernandez only attacked the zone sporadically and — like Jeremy Hellickson — got beaten up when he was forced to throw pitches over the heart of the plate after falling behind in the count.
Scherzer on the other hand was dominant, relenting only one run on a James Loney RBI single in the sixth inning. Scherzer lasted seven strong innings, giving up only four hits and a pair of walks on 100 pitches (66 for strikes). Allowing only one runner to reach scoring position in the front six innings, Scherzer effectively kept the Rays hitters from getting any lift on the ball, inducing five line-outs or ground-outs. Tampa Bay had opportunities to put more runs on the board, however Desmond Jennings played the role of rally killer on this fateful day — striking out to end the sixth inning, and flying-out just a hair shy of a three-run homer to end the eighth inning.
Moving forward. The Rays will welcome the Baltimore Orioles into Tropicana Field Friday, for a three-game weekend series. Tampa Bay has an opportunity to leapfrog Baltimore who sits a game-and-a-half in front of the Rays in third place. It won’t be easy. Like the Rays, the Orioles have won seven of their last 10 games, though they’re coming off a sluggish win and loss to the Houston Astros. Tampa Bay has had success against both Jason Hammel and Chris Tillman, so it’s really incumbent on the Rays starters to keep Adam Jones, Nick Markakis, Chris Davis and the rest of the Orioles bats in check.
Jason Hammel: Per Rotowire, “Hammel was ejected from Saturday’s start against the Tigers after hitting Matt Tuiasosopo in the shoulder, MASN Sports reports.” The Rays last faced Hammel on the 17th of May, in a game where they were able to touch him up for seven runs on seven hits and two walks. Since then, Hammel had a couple of quality starts against the Yankees and the Nationals, giving up only two runs in each start. But Hammel lasted only three innings in his very next start, giving up five runs on five hits, including three homers to the Tigers. The 30 year-old RHP has now given up four or more runs in five of his 12 starts. Key match-ups: Kelly Johnson (8-24, 2B, 2 HR, 6 RBI), Jose Lobaton (1-2, 2B), James Loney (10-33, 2 2B, 3 HR, 9 RBI), Jose Molina (2-8, 2B, BB), Luke Scott (3-9, 2B, 3 RBI, 2 BB), Ben Zobrist (4-7, 2B, HR, 2 RBI).
Kevin Gausman: Per Rotowire, “Gausman gave the Orioles six quality innings Sunday, allowing one run on five hits with no walks and four strikeouts against the Tigers.” The Rays have never faced the young 22 year-old who’s described as having, “A 96-98 MPH four-seam fastball which features significant arm side run and sink when located down in the zone.” His fastball frequently touches 99 MPH, even in later innings. When elevated up in the zone, his fastball maintained velocity but flattened out and became hittable. Gausman has a clear preference to keep his fastball down in the zone — where it was most effective — a tendency which may explain his 51.5% ground ball rate this year.
Also, “His changeup is his best offering. He maintains his arm speed on the 82-84 MPH pitch, which features a massive velocity differential from his fastball. The change is not only deceptive, it has exceptional movement. Its drop and fade are so dramatic they mimic a breaking ball.”
Chris Tillman: Per Rotowire, “Tillman went seven innings Tuesday, allowing one earned run on four hits and two walks with eight strikeouts against the Astros, improving to 5-2 on the season.” The Rays have beaten the Orioles twice this season when Tillman has been on the bump. The tall RHP gave up four runs on six hits in five innings of work back in April, following that outing a month later by giving three runs on five hits (including a pair of homers) and a walk. Tillman has been effective with the fastball in two-strike counts during his current three-game win streak. Opponents are 3-for-26 (.115) against Tillman’s fastball in two-strike counts. Key match-ups: Sam Fuld (2-5, 2B, 2 RBI), Kelly Johnson (2-5, HR, RBI), Matt Joyce (4-16, 2B, 3B, HR, 2 RBI, BB), Evan Longoria (8-18, 2B, 3 HR, 4 RBI, 3 BB), Ryan Roberts (1-3, HR, RBI, 2 BB), Luke Scott (1-2, HR, RBI).
- Tampa Bay leads the season series 5-4. The Rays lead the overall series 70-63 at the Trop.
- The Orioles have won 11 of their past 16 games.
- Chris Davis is making his own run at the Triple Crown, leading the league in homers (20), second to only reigning AL MVP Miguel Cabrera in batting average (.357) and RBIs (52).
- LHP Wei-Yin Chen on the disabled list.
- The Orioles lead the majors with 84 homers.
- Baltimore’s staff has a 4.96 ERA over a 16-game stretch, but the Orioles are batting .303 and producing 5.3 runs per game.
- Rays LHP reliever Jake McGee was pulled from Thursday’s game with a left shin contusion, after getting hit with a Miguel Cabrera come backer. The injury didn’t seem serious, and he is presumably listed as day-to-day.