It didn’t feel like a Rays/Red Sox game Friday night. It also didn’t feel like a contest that was relevant or important — and let’s be honest, it wasn’t. From the half empty stands to the hushed crowd, the atmosphere at The Trop felt stale. And despite what Joe Maddon said, about the Rays still having a shot at the playoffs, the good guys are playing as though they’ve resigned themselves to mediocrity. The first and second innings epitomized that feeling to a T. If only the Rays could be credited with a win based on their play in segments, not as a whole — they easily would have won the game from the third through ninth innings.
Let’s look at the first and second innings.
Brock Holt led off the game with a 3-2 single to right. Dustin Pedroia followed with a five pitch walk, advancing Holt to second base. Chris Archer, though missing his location in the first two at-bats — something that would plague him throughout the course of his start — was able to coax a fly-ball out of David Ortiz for the first out of the inning, yet Yoenis Cespedes put the Sox on the board early with a single to right; scoring Holt from second and advancing Pedroia advanced to third. Daniel Nava followed a strikeout of Mike Napoli with an RBI single which moved Cespedes to second. Down by two with two outs, Archer made the Rays first error of the night on a ball off the bat of Mookie Betts, loading the bases for Will Middlebrooks who hit an RBI single up the middle. Three runs and 28 pitches later, Archer was able to coax a grounder out of Christian Vazquez to end the inning. The second inning wasn’t much better.
Holt led off the second with another single, bringing Pedroia to the plate. Pedroia promptly lined out to Joyce in right field for the first out. With one out, and the shift on for Big Papi, Archer coaxed what should have been an inning ending double play — yet wasn’t. James Loney fielded the ball at first and promptly threw to Yunel Escobar to get the lead runner at second. Yet — in a moment of deja vu — Escobar threw wide of first on the back end of the play and failed to turn another double play for the second time in two days. The failed play, which should have ended the inning, proved costly. Cespedes plated Boston’s fourth run on a double to right… And Boston still wasn’t done. Archer proceeded to walk and hit the next two batters (Mike Napoli and Daniel Nava respectively) which loaded the bases for Mookie Betts. Betts responded by hitting a 1-0 grand slam to left field.
A Rays loss was a forgone conclusion by that point. Regardless of Kevin Kiermaier’s RBI single to center in the second, Brandon Guyer’s two run no doubter to left in the fifth, or the late one run uprising in the ninth, Escobar’s throwing error was responsible for an unrecoverable five-run second inning. To put it bluntly, Escobar, over the last two games, has cost the Rays seven runs and two wins, thanks to three egregious throwing errors.
The New What Next
Jake Odorizzi will butt heads with Allen Webster and the Red Sox tonight. Webster (3-2, 5.81 ERA) put together a good three hit/two run outing against Tampa Bay back at the end of July — his first start with the Red Sox. He’s given up 18 runs in 25-2/3 innings since, good for a 6.31 ERA. You can read about the pitching matchup in our series preview.
Rays 8/30/14 Starting Lineup
- Neither Yunel Escobar or Desmond Jennings are in tonight’s lineup. Jennings has sore left knee. And Escobar? Joe Maddon, in yesterday’s pre-game show (on WDAE) mentioned that he wanted to give Escobar a day-off/mental break somehow. I suspect this is how he’s going about that.
- Back in May, when the Rays were mired in their worst play of the season, I just wanted to see them play consistent baseball. Then June happened, and the potential for a postseason berth seemed reasonable. Joe Maddon set a goal for the team to reach .500 in a specific window of time. While that window had to be expanded, Tampa Bay reached .500 — even though the promise of the postseason faded. At this point and again, I’d just like to see Tampa Bay play solid ball.
- Speaking of Odorizzi, Alex Skillin of Beyond the Box Score writes, Jake “is a far different—and better—pitcher than the one who debuted for Tampa Bay last season.