Even though Blake Snell had his best start of season last night, it wasn’t enough to snap the Tampa Bay Rays now five-game losing streak. The Rays fell 5–0 to the Baltimore Orioles.
Much to the surprise of some, and the chagrin of others, Snell rarely found himself in trouble with any of the Orioles’ batters … well, except for Adam Jones. Baltimore’s centerfielder doubled on a fastball on the outer third of the plate to start the game, and was wild pitched into third. But Jones did not score because Snell struck out Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop (both swinging) on a pair of nasty sliders in the dirt, and got Mark Trumbo to pop to short.
Jones put his team on the board in the third inning when he turned on a fastball, that was in on his hands, and sent it over the wall in left-center. Credit where it’s due, Snell made a good pitch that Jones was able to quickly pull his hands in on, and crank out for his fourth homer in six days.
— TheRenderMLB (@TheRenderMLB) July 25, 2017
Aside from that, Snell — dare I say it — dominated the Orioles. The southpaw worked over the outside of the plate against righties with fastballs and changeups, although he wasn’t afraid to come inside from time to time. Snell stayed in control of his stuff for all seven-plus innings of his start — and yes, that includes the two hits he allowed in the top of the eighth (a single to left by Rubén Tejada, and a bunt single by Joey Rickard that rolled back into play).
But, as well as Snell pitched, there wasn’t a reason for him to start this inning … especially with over 100 pitches thrown and his first success of the season. Yet Kevin Cash being didn’t see it that way, and Sergio Romo was forced to make his debut Rays with a pair on and none out.
Romo entered the game and allowed a base-loading single on a waist high fastball on the inner third of the plate to Jones. Then with the infield in, Manny Machado hit a ground ball single on another waist high fastball, this time on the outer third of the plate. That cost Snell — who scattered six hits and a walk, while striking out four — a pair of runs. Schoop followed with a sac-fly to left, making it a 4–0 game.
Romo was able to strike out Mark Trumbo (swinging) on a sweeping slider that just caught the outside of the plate.
Prior to the game, Cash said he would use Romo — who hadn’t pitched since July 8, mind you — in high leverage situations. The Rays manager later said he planned to have Romo face Jones regardless if there were two on and no outs, or none on with two outs. Perhaps it would have made more sense to ease Romo into the eighth inning, by allowing him to start things off with a clean frame, as opposed to throwing in a (potentially) rusty hurler with a pair on and a dangerous hitter at the plate.
Meanwhile, the Rays could not solve Kevin “Cy” Gausman, squandering scoring opportunities in the third, fifth, and sixth innings.
In the third, Tim Beckham singled and Mallex Smith walked, but Adeiny Hechavarria and Steven Souza Jr. struck out. After Corey Dickerson walked the bases loaded, Evan Longoria grounded hard into a 6–4 fielder’s choice.
Then in the fifth, Smith tripled to left-center to leadoff the inning. Hechavarria followed by putting the ball in play, yet right at Machado who was playing just off the line, which forced Smith to dive back to avoid a tag and a double play. After Souza walked to put runners on the corners, Dickerson — who is mired in a major slump and hitting just .189 over his past 20 games — swung through a pair of fastballs to fall behind 0-2, before grounding into a double play on a Gausman splitter that was well out of the zone. Simply put, Dickerson is regressing at a scary level and at the worst possible time.
Tampa Bay also got a two-out double from Jesus Sucre, who took over for Wilson Ramos* in the sixth inning. However, Gausman struck out Brad Miller to end the frame.
Of course the Rays, who ended the night 0-for-7 wRISP, got nothing started against Baltimore’s A bullpen.
* Ramos was hit on the head with a large chunk of Tejada’s broken bat. He received six staples to suture the gash, and should be back in action by the series finale.
The New What Next
Tampa Bay will try to get back on track Tuesday with Jacob Faria (4-1, 2.52 ERA, 3.53 FIP) on the mound. He’ll start opposite of lefty Wade Miley (4-8, 5.58 ERA, 5.36 FIP).
Faria allowed four runs on six hits and four walks while striking out four in a loss to Oakland on Wednesday. He, otherwise, has pitched well since being promoted from Triple-A Durham on June 7. All but one of Faria’s starts have been of the quality sort, and he has shown that he isn’t afraid to throw strikes, which can be difficult for younger players … just ask teammate Blake Snell.
Miley has given up fewer than four runs in just one of his past nine starts — allowing a combined 12 runs over 9-2/3 innings in his past two outings, while walking eight. Part of the problem is that Miley attempted to morph into a swing-and-miss pitcher toward the beginning of the season, which has been a blessing and a curse for the hurler. He’s tried to work off the plate to get hitters to chase pitches out of the zone, making Miley’s mistakes come off the plate as opposed to over it. However, when you cannot command your pitches, you end up working to a pretty ugly BB/9. The southpaw gave up two runs in seven innings against the Rays on April 25. Key Matchups: Peter Bourjos (2-6, 2B, BB), Adeiny Hechavarria (3-9, 2B), Wilson Ramos (3-7, 2B, 3 RBI), Steven Souza Jr. (5-20, 2B, HR, 3 RBI, BB)
Rays 7/25/17 Starting Lineup
Souza Jr. RF
— Most of Romo’s sliders missed well off the plate though, something Cash attributed to rustiness. Moving forward, it will be interesting to how Romo adjusts as he gets comfortable in his new digs.
— Over the last seven days, the Rays have been bitten (chewed up and spit out?) by the luck dragons, performing to .259 BABIP.
— It’s true, the Rays have dropped a season high five straight. However, Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) wants to remind you that there are still reasons to be encouraged (among other things):
- Amid all the frustration, there is still plenty of confidence in the clubhouse, a sense that they have a good enough team — offense, starting pitching, tightened defense, improving bullpen — to stay in the race. “We have all the belief in the world in here that things will come together,” veteran third baseman Evan Longoria said before the game. “We’ll win a game again. I promise you that, we’ll win another one.”
- There are still 62 games to play. Even after losing five straight, the Rays remain one game back in the American League wild-card race and within 4½ of first in the American League East. Remember, in 2011, they were nine games out of a playoff spot — in September — and ended up making the playoffs, albeit with a wee bit of Game 162 drama. And in 2013, they had a 4-13 slump late in the season — from Aug. 25-Sept. 11 — and also made it, although needing to win Game 163 to do so.
- Though a longer skid conceivably could change things, the front office to this point is still working hard — feverishly, we’re told — to buy, seeking to address their two biggest deficiencies, a dominant reliever — beyond Sergio Romo, who was picked up off the DFA discard pile — and a hitter, likely right-handed, to further boost the offense. “Constant conversation, constant thought on how to make us better in different areas of our club,” Cash said. “They’re working really hard. It doesn’t just come together at the snap of a finger as we all know.”
Do with that what thy wilt.