I’m not certain if the headline to ESPN’s piece on the Rays 4-3 loss to the Chicago White Sox is funny, ironic, or a combination of the two. It reads, “White Sox eliminate Rays from playoff contention,” and while the four runs put up by Chicago nailed the coffin shut, the Rays sealed their own fate a long time ago. But fine, I’ll take the bait and argue that if we’re looking at Tampa Bay’s elimination from the postseason on the micro level, then it was the lackluster performance by Jeremy Hellickson that sealed the teams fate, not the White Sox. After all, he’s the one who delivered the very hittable pitches.
And while Jose Molina’s pitch framing (on average) gives Jeremy Hellickson an extra 4.56 strikes per 100 pitches, there was nothing this dynamic duo could do to stave off the four run fifth inning. Chalk the loss up to another Hellickson meltdown. What’s confounding — excepting that he wasn’t efficient — his first four innings were solid. Then again, that’s not unusual.
In 12 starts this season, Hellickson’s only pitched past the fifth inning four times. And while it’s not uncommon for him to run into the big inning, he’s given up three or more runs in four of the above mentioned starts.
In short, it’s been the same story throughout the season: Hellickson throws well — albeit inefficiently — for a few innings, then he either loses his command around the fourth or fifth inning, or (as was the case of last night) the hitters make adjustments and he can’t adjust in kind. Whatever the case — and as a result — more times than not, he gets pulled in favor of the ‘pen.
True, the Rays did themselves no favors by going 1-5 wRISP, while also making three egregious running gaffes. I’ll concede, they should have tacked on more runs. However, by virtue of the fact that the White Sox did nothing offensively in the front and final four innings of play, this loss rests squarely on Helly’s shoulders.
I’m calling it now, if Hellickson doesn’t get traded ahead of the 2015 season — and honestly, with a 0.4 WAR I don’t imagine he’s accrued much trade value this season — he will get pulled from the starting rotation and end up in the bullpen, ala Wade Davis before him.
The New What Next
The Tampa Bay Rays still have an opportunity to end the season with a plus .500 record, though they can only lose one of their upcoming eight games. Chris Archer will get the start tonight against Hector Noesi. Noesi (8-10, 4.77 ERA) is a right handed fastball/curveball/slider/changeup pitcher that has been hurt by the Rays in previous years. Tampa Bay has tagged him with an 0-2 record and a 4.67 ERA – extending back to 2011. He did put up 1-1/3 scoreless innings in relief of John Danks earlier this season, in what would go down as a 4-0 Rays victory. You can read about the pitching matchup in our series preview.
Rays 9/20/14 Starting Lineup
- Since getting good, the Rays were eliminated with 11 games left to play in 2009, and two in 2012. They have eight left as of today.
- The Rays are without Sean Rodriguez (bereavement list) and Brad Boxberger (paternity leave). Boxberger is due back Sunday.
- For Hellickson, he is riding a streak of 12 consecutive home starts without a win — he’s now tied for second in team history, behind Scott Kazmir’s 14 in a row. Hellickson hasn’t had a home win since July 2013, and the Rays have lost his last eight starts. That’s the longest streak by a Rays pitcher since the Devil Rays era ended.
- Longoria’s 46 RBI (in 57 games) since the All-Star break matches Adrian Gonzalez and Jośe Bautista for the most in the majors.