I’d hardly call Tuesday night’s 6-2 loss to the Red Sox a crushing blow, however there is a certain amount of suckiness attached when you consider that the Rays could have pulled into first place for only the second time this season. Let’s not get down on ourselves though, the Rays have had a great run, and one loss — only their third in 21 games mind you — shouldn’t be viewed as a foreboding indicator of doom and gloom. Losses are going to happen, and the true test will come tonight when David Price takes the hill, opposite of Felix Doubront. While I’d be hesitant to call this a crushing blow, I’d be foolish to overlook the glaring antecedents that factored into the Rays loss: A mediocre start by Roberto Hernandez, a horrible two-thirds of an inning by Kyle Farnsworth, cracks in the defense, and an anemic offense.
Let’s start with the facts, Hernandez wasn’t terrible and he was able to keep Tampa Bay in the thick of things throughout the course of his 5 IP/7 H/3 ER outing. Marc Topkin summed up Hernandez’s outing perfectly,
“Hernandez delivered a performance that wasn’t horrible but wasn’t good enough — and certainly not up to the level of excellence by the other starters.”
However, Roberto was very hittable Tuesday night — the Red Sox BABIP’d Fausto, tagging him for three extra base hits. In fact two of those doubles directly resulted in runs. Boston also pounced on his reputation for not being able to control the running game, beautifully executing a double steal in the bottom of the third , resulting in a Shane Victorino run. To be fair, Jose Molina probably shouldn’t have tried to gun down Pedroia as he swiped second. After all, with runners on the corners, Molina opened up the possibility of a Victorino steal of home when he errantly attempted to throw Pedroia out at second.
In the end, Hernandez has allowed three runs in each of his past five starts and has only one win to show for it. That speaks to he being an unlucky pitcher. But if last night’s outing was reflective of anything, the big hits, and the fumbling in pressing/high leverage situations, ultimately rang the death knell on the mound for Hernandez.
I’ll just flatly come out and say it, Kyle Farnsworth was horrible. The once dependable RHP reliever incurred as much damage in two-thirds of an inning, as Hernandez had in five. After Jamey Wright got David Ortiz to ground into the first out of the eighth inning, Joe Maddon decided to play the match-up card with Farnsworth — a plan that royally blew up in all of our faces. Mike Napoli doubled, Jonny Gomes singled, and after Saltalamacchia struck out, Steven Drew and Jose Iglesias plated three runs on back-to-back singles. Also thrown in for good measure was a stolen base which deleted the double play threat, and, as DRaysBay put it,
“A comedy of defense that saw Escobar earn the credit for throwing one away. Yunel had been riding a 53-game error-less stream, the best in Rays history at short stop.”
It will be particularly interesting to see what happens when Alex Cobb comes off the DL. Suffice to say, Roberto Hernandez and Chris Archer (once again) are fighting for the fifth starter spot in the rotation. In my opinion, Hernandez has what it takes to be a starter…but then again, so does Archer. To me, it would be unconscionable to send Archer back to Triple-A just because he still has options. The Rays are very prudent, and they will generally squeeze every ounce of value out of a player before they release him from a contract. That is to say, though the answer seems plainly obvious to you and me, it’s doubtful that Tampa Bay will just release Hernandez from his contract. So what do you do with him?
One solution seems to be to place him in the bullpen. The question then begs, who do you get rid of to make room for Hernandez? Jamey Wright, at least from the contract obligation point of view, seems like the low man on the totem pole. However, his numbers (2.84 ERA/.207 BAA/.267 BABIP/1.88 GB to FB) don’t justify Wright getting kicked to the curb. In short, his value as a pitcher exceeds the value of his contract. As much as it doesn’t pain me to say it, perhaps the wisest option would be to eat the remainder of Farnsworth’s $1.25 MM contract, and move Hernandez where he, arguably, should have been all along.
Cracks in the Defense
- With Napoli on second in the second inning, Mike Carp hit a liner that dribbled in the grass of shallow right-field. Wil Myers nonchalantly went after the ball, and there was no charge on the grounder rolling towards him. When he finally fielded the ball, Myers could not get a throw home to challenge the runner.
- The above mentioned errant handling of the third inning Victorino/Pedroia double steal.
- The above mentioned fielding error by Yunel Escobar.
An Anemic Offense
Tampa Bay went 0-5 wRISP, striking out a whopping 13 times — Desmond Jennings three times (in the lead off spot, no less), Ben Zobrist twice, Evan Longoria twice, James Loney twice, and Matt Joyce twice. Suffice to say, seven strikeouts at the top of the order is a lot of frustrating outs.
The New What Next
The Rays will attempt to get back to a half game of first following their minor regression. As mentioned above, David Price will butt heads with Felix Doubront in this, the third game of a four game set. You can read about the pitching match-up here.
Rays 7/24/13 Starting Lineup
- Wil Myers has five straight multi-hit games, which ties the team mark for rookies set by Delmon Young in ’07.
- Alex Torres will be second pitcher in the last 50 yrs to allow less than 10 hits in the first 100 at-bats of the season. The other was Chapman of the Reds.
- This isn’t the best of news: Rays top pitching prospect Taylor Guerrieri is having Tommy John surgery today.
- Alex Cobb had to be pulled after only two pitches into the first game of his rehab stint. Not to worry, the prognosis is a blister on one of his pitching fingers.
- As Marc Topkin pointed out, “The Rays have lost 10 of 14 against the Sox — their first season series loss since 2007 — and their bigger problem has been a lack of offense, especially at Fenway, where in six losses they have seven runs and batted .171, including 2-for-36 with runners in scoring position.”
- Today also brought forth news, that Stu Sternberg is optimistic for a breakthrough on the stadium stalemate. In a Tampa Bay Times article, Sternberg was quoted as saying, “The details I’m certainly not going to speak about, but it is no secret that the mayor and I have had a number of conversations over a lengthy period of time, and I would like to believe that that’s going to bear some fruit and allow us the opportunity to put this franchise on great footing for generations to come.” Marc Topkin went on to write, “Foster declined to elaborate on the negotiations Tuesday night, but City Council Chairman Karl Nurse said city and team lawyers “have been trying to draft an agreement” for months that would allow the Rays to look at potential stadium sites in Tampa, as well as St. Petersburg,” and “An agreement would define ground rules for the search and reinforce the team’s current obligation to play at Tropicana Field through 2027, Nurse said. The Rays also would have to thoroughly examine a proposed stadium in St. Petersburg’s Carillon Business Park before looking in Tampa, he said.”