The Rays looked better Tuesday night; not quite sharp enough to stave off a 5-4 loss, nor good enough to circumvent a franchise-worst-matching 4-9 through 13 games. But better.
And though none of us were wholly encouraged by the outcome — namely the Rays dropping their fourth straight — there were some encouraging signs that the clouds may start to clear. As Rays manager Joe Maddon put it,
“I thought it was a great game. I was really pleased with our guys. I know some people might not understand that, but you’ve got to build a little bit at a time to get back to where you normally want to be. I was really pleased with the attitude, the effort. Not the results, but that’ll come.”
Most encouraging, the Rays offense had a spark of life. Tampa Bay had six hits on the night — one hit fewer than the previous two nights combined. They also scored four runs, the most since April 8th against Texas. Some bulleted highlights are below.
- The Rays entered Tuesday night’s affair with only five homers in 12 games. They hit three homers Tuesday — a one run Desmond Jennings line drive tater to left, a one run opposite-field Kelly Johnson homer, and a two-run Evan Longoria blast in the eight inning. Longo has now gone yard in consecutive games since he hit his first homer Monday. Mark the date, this is the Rays first three homer game of 2013, and the first game with two homers in one inning.
- Kelly Johnson went 1-3 with a homer, a pair of walks, and a really good 13-pitch at-bat to start the game.
- Ben Zobrist may not have gotten a hit, but he reached base twice. He was also driven home by Longoria in the eighth inning.
- Like Kelly Johnson, Matt Joyce had a good day at the plate. Joyce went 2-4 with a double. For those keeping count, that’s three hits in two days.
- Jamey Wright, Cesar Ramos, and Brandon Gomes did a good job keeping the Orioles from scoring more runs, effectively keeping the Rays in the thick of things. Wright, Ramos, and Gomes gave up a hit and a walk in 2-2/3 innings (combined), striking out one. I wasn’t too keen on Wright at the start of the season, but he’s started to calm down as he’s gotten settled in.
That isn’t to say the whole night was stellar, far from it. But it was at least something to build on. The Rays were still incapable of driving in runners in scoring position, going 0-6. And though Kelly Johnson and Matt Joyce seemed to be making strides at breaking out of their slumps, Yunel Escobar, James Loney, Sam Fuld, and Ryan Roberts looked clueless at the plate, swinging at whatever Arrieta threw their way — junk and all. The aforementioned four went a combined 0-8 with a walk, while going 0-3 wRISP.
Then there was Roberto Hernandez’s uneven start.
Hernandez posted a 5.1 IP/5 H/5 R/3 ER/3 BB/7 K/1 HR slash line on 112 pitches (61 for strikes, a 54% K/BB ratio). When Hernandez kept the ball down, he was outstanding. But he didn’t keep the ball down with constancy, and the O’s made him pay. Marc Topkin summed up his performance up well,
“Also, the Rays got another uneven performance from starter Roberto Hernandez, who quickly gave back the lead Desmond Jennings handed him with a leadoff homer, allowing single runs in each of the first three innings.
The score was 3-1 until the sixth, when Hernandez, having command issues, allowed the first two O’s to reach and Maddon had him put on Chris Davis — who tormented the Rays in the season-opening series — to load the bases.
Hernandez struck out Matt Wieters, then got the ground ball he wanted from J.J. Hardy. Third baseman Evan Longoria made a good decision to go to the plate on the hit but made a bad throw, the run scoring on his error. Another infield bouncer off Jamey Wright made it 5-1.”
One only needs to look at his location plot (below) to see that he was all over the place Tuesday night:
Moving on. Matt Joyce and Kelly Johnson will attempt to continue their improved at-bats Wednesday night, when the Rays face the Orioles for the second game in a three game set. Tampa Bay will throw left handed pitcher Matt Moore on the bump, opposite of Chris Tillman. You can read a pitching (and series) preview here.
Rays 4/17/13 Starting Lineup:
- 13 lineups in 14 games: The front four hitters in the lineup have not changed from last night to tonight, with Kelly Johnson hitting second in front of Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria. Joe Maddon moved Yunel Escobar down to the ninth spot in the lineup.
- Per Marc Topkin, the Rays saw 187 pitches Tuesday; the 57th time they saw that many in nine inning game, and only the eighth time they lost. K. Johnson saw 35 of those pitches. Rays hitters had 11 full-counts.
- Also per Topkin, Luke Scott says today “was best day yet” and he’s “pretty darn close” to going on a rehab assignment, though it won’t before Saturday. Scott says it’s been very frustrating being out, he’s “chewed off” his fingernails and “taken a few sips of the fermented drink.”