The Tampa Bay Rays continued their “winning ways” on Tuesday, edging the Chicago White Sox, 6-5, in what became a ninth-inning nail-biter. Shocker, I know.
What follows are The Good, The Bad, and The Argyle from the matinee ball game.
— After an unlucky start to the season, with the Rays performing to a .267 BABIP over the first nine games, the luck dragons now appear to be nipping at the heals of opposing pitchers. Tampa Bay put up a .385 BABIP against Boston on Sunday, a .419 BABIP on Monday, and a .400 BABIP Tuesday afternoon. To be certain, gaudy BABIP’s as such are not sustainable. However, a subpar .267 figure also shouldn’t be expected over the long haul.
In the words of our buddy Robert Smith — no, not the singer of the Cure — So many things went wrong during the Yankee and Red Sox series. No way those threads would continue.
This offense isnt great. Many people think it will be worse than last year. But people equate HRs with effectiveness. We were 25th int he league in runs. It was not a good offense.
I think when all is said and done, that this offense will score more runs than we did last year.
— For the second consecutive day, everyone in the lineup reached base. Carlos Gomez crushed a massive 424 foot home run to center (see below) and reached on a single, Mallex Smith reached on a pair of base hits, Daniel Robertson continued to rack up solid OBP figures with two singles and a walk, and Joey Wendle continued his five game hitting streak with a single (also reaching on three walks).
Touch the base, tap tap…
— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) April 11, 2018
— A mere 10 games after he first strode out onto the field on Opening Day, Wilson Ramos plated his first run of the season, driving in Duffy from second.
— Three hours and 48 minutes makes for a long game, however, the Rays did a good job at being patient at the plate and working good at-bats. Tampa Bay’s batters reached base 22 times on 11 hits, 10 walks, and one hit by pitch. Egad, it’s almost like the Rays of old, under the watchful eye of Joe Maddon, where a walk was as good as a hit!
— The Rays went 5-for-16 with runners in scoring position, good for a .313 wRISP batting average. To that end, those numbers also appear to be improving; Tampa Bay has improved its wRISP batting average over the course of the first three series, from .176 in the Opening Series to .235 against the Yankees, then .240 again vs Boston. They also went 5-15 wRISP on Monday, good for a .333 batter’s average.
— Blake Snell fanned 10, induced seven ground outs, and gave up just one hit and one run. From a boxscore perspective, he looked unflappable. He also finished six innings which put the bullpen in a reasonable position. All that glitters is not gold, however, which I’ll talk about that in the next section.
— Snell yielded five walks and got himself into 12 three-ball counts. At points in the game he appeared to get ahead of batters only to fall behind, and admittedly tried to get a little “too nasty” in the hope that he could get Chicago’s free-swinging batters to chase. At other points in the game his command was all but there. 114 pitches (2018 high water mark; 62 strikes) over six innings really isn’t the model of efficiency.
.@RaysBaseball left-hander Blake Snell says he was a little frustrated with his command Tuesday afternoon in his 10-strikeout, 5-walk performance against the White Sox. #RaysUp #MLB pic.twitter.com/Ps9jLSlxdc
— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) April 10, 2018
— Oh my, that ninth inning…
With a cushy five run lead in the ninth, Ryan Weber made his first appearance in a Rays uniform. But, Weber promptly allowed a lead off double to Tim Anderson, whose grounder got by Duffy at third and dribbled down the foul line, caroming off the wall. In all fairness, Anderson did not exactly hit a bullet, rather the odd carom factored into the two-base hit. Nevertheless, the shortstop easily swiped third and scored on a sacrifice-fly, drawing Chicago within four.
With the base paths clear, Wendle bobbled a routine grounder which allowed Leury Garcia to reach first base. After Weber walked Yoan Moncada, Cash decided to bring in Alex Colome to what now was a save situation.
Colome coaxed a weak comebacker from the first batter he faced, allowing the base runners to move up 90-feet … albeit with two outs and a four-run lead. Colome jumped out in front of the next batter, Jose Abreu, with an 0-2 count when he went for the game ending punch out. Yet Colome didn’t bury his put-away cutter, and instead of swinging over the off-speed offering, Abreu golf-clubbed a three-run homer to center — bringing the White Sox within one.
Adding insult to injury, Colome walked the next batter, which brought the winning run, represented by Omar Narvaez, to the plate. Narvaez, however, lashed a line drive to Mallex Smith in right for the final out.
— This Leverage Index graph clearly is not as benign as it looks.
The New What Next
The Rays will try for the sweep on Wednesday with Yonny Chirinos (0-0, 0.00 ERA) on the mound. He’ll be opposed by “Big Game” James Shields (1-0, 5.73 ERA).
Yonny Chirinos was dominant over his five inning, 54-pitch (38 strikes, 70.3% strike ratio) outing, relying primarily on a heavy sinker that coaxed a lot of early in the count ground ball outs. The right-hander didn’t walk a batter and struck out four, giving up just three hits along the way — none of which were struck particularly well by Boston’s lineup.
James Shields, former friends of the Rays, struggled over his first two starts of his 2018 campaign. He has given up seven runs over 11 innings, while walking two and striking out just one. He, however, has been very good against his former team, coasting to a 3-0 record with a 1.35 ERA over three starts. He has fanned 23 along the way. The Rays have not faced Shields since 2016. Key matchups: Carlos Gomez (4-9), Adeiny Hechavarria (3-10), Kevin Kiermaier (1-2, 2B), Brad Miller (4-10, 2B, HR, RBI, BB), Wilson Ramos (1-3, HR, 3 RBI, 2 BB)
You can read about the series in our preview.
Rays 4/11/18 Starting Lineup
— Following the game Tuesday, the Rays acquired outfielder Jeremy Hazelbaker from Arizona in exchange for cash considerations. To clear a spot on the 40-man roster, Tampa Bay transferred RHP Jose De Leon to the 60-day disabled list.
Steve Adams (MLB Trade Rumors) wrote about the deal, saying:
Hazelbaker, whom the D-backs designated for assignment late last week, will head to Triple-A Durham. De Leon underwent Tommy John surgery during Spring Training, so he’ll be out for the entirety of the 2018 season.
The 30-year-old Hazelbaker will give the Rays some depth across the board in the outfield, as he’s plenty experienced in center and in both outfield corners. The left-handed-hitting Hazelbaker was the talk of MLB two years ago when he broke camp with the Cardinals and posted an absurd .317/.357/.683 slash in the month of April. However, he cooled off considerably over the remainder of the season and was ultimately waived by St. Louis and claimed by Arizona.
Last year with the D-backs, Hazelbaker logged 61 plate appearances and again posted some eye-popping numbers, hitting .346/.443/.577 with two doubles, two homers and two triples. In all, Hazelbaker is a .258/.327/.500 hitter in in 285 MLB plate appearances, and he owns a .277/.336/.452 slash in parts of seven Triple-A seasons.