The Tampa Bay Rays wrapped up their home/away series at Tropicana Field, with a 4-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday. Previous to that game, Tampa Bay was 8-0 when leading after six innings and 6-1 in series finales. Yet all of that changed in the sixth and seventh innings as the bullpen allowed four unanswered runs.
Nathan Karns, who sailed through five scoreless innings on just 66 pitches, was not charged with the loss, nor should he have been — Karns was excellent, scattering a pair of hits and a walk, while fanning four. The decision to pull Karns was a contentious one; there wasn’t any evidence to suggest he may have been running out of gas. On the contrary, the righty told the media he “felt fine,” and following with, “I would say it’s the most pitches I’ve executed in a game, you know working ahead… things along that (line).”
A specific point at which he’d be pulled from the game was unknown to him, and Karns allowed that the decision was based one simple philosophy: hitters do better the third time through the batting order. Although one can’t help but feel that he was disappointed by the decision which ultimately blew up in the face of manager Kevin Cash, “They’re in charge of making those calls, and I’m just there to do my job and pitch.”
The blowback was almost instantaneous. Reactions ranged from reasonable, acknowledging this was probably a rookie mistake, to those that hinted at shades of Maddon-esque over-managing
Credit the skipper for owning the lapse in judgement — Cash conceded that he may have pulled Karns too soon, “It’s on me.”
From there the game disintegrated into a melange of questionable pinch-hitting moves, in a failed attempt to squeeze out some offensive production from the lineup. To that end, I can see where the Joe Maddon comparisons could be made…if only for this one game. After all, Cash did seem to over-manage things toward the end of the contest.
Perhaps that particular game should be chalked up to inexperience and on the job training — training which, in an ideal world, would stave off another gaffe of this type. Look at the bright side: Tampa Bay is set to start a three-game series against the underperforming Boston Red Sox.
Since leaving the Trop back on April 23rd, the Red Sox waffled their way around the AL East, dropping six of eight against the Orioles, Blue Jays, and Yankees. Moreover, Boston’s pitching staff allowed four or more runs in six of those games — something that could benefit the Rays who’ve struggled to plate runs over the past two series. They have managed three or fewer runs in each of its last six contests, going 2-4 in that span. Tampa Bay will try to get back on the winning side of things against their AL East foes. Hell they took two of three from the Sox in April, who’s to say they can’t again?
Clay Buchholz vs Jake Odorizzi: Buchholz’s inconsistent tendencies reared its ugly head once again in his last start. He allowed five runs (four earned) and got pulled after just 2-2/3 innings, his shortest outing since April 21, 2014. Odorizzi took his second loss of the season against the Yankees on Tuesday after allowing four runs on nine hits while striking out four in 6-1/3 innings. The righty is 0-2 with an 8.25 ERA in three career starts at Fenway Park.
Rick Porcello vs Drew Smyly: Porcello held the Blue Jays to one run in seven innings while fanning six batters in his last start. Smyly took a no-decision on Wednesday afternoon, holding the Yankees to two runs on four hits in six innings. Smyly is 2-0 with a 2.82 ERA in five career appearances against the Red Sox.
Justin Masterson vs Alex Colome: Masterson has quietly strung together some solid performances of late. He has allowed three runs or fewer in four of his five starts. Colome is coming off a powerful season debut against the Orioles last Friday in which he threw five scoreless innings of three-hit ball, accruing six strikeouts along the way. This will be his first career appearance against Boston.
Clay Buchholz: Buchholz toed the rubber against Odorizzi on April 23 and held Tampa Bay to one run and two hits while striking out 10 in six innings. He, however, was left out of the decision. Buchholz is 8-6 with a 2.40 ERA in 19 career starts against the Rays. Key match-ups: Asdrubal Cabrera (4-11, 2B, 2 HR, 2 RBI, 3 BB), David DeJesus (6-17, 2B, RBI, 4 BB), Logan Forsythe (1-4, RBI, BB).
Rick Porcello: The Rays have fared well against the former Tigers hurled, tagging the righty for 12 runs in his last 34-2/3 innings of work. Porcello has posted whiffier numbers this season than at this point last season, 55 whiffs compared to 35, although he’s also been tagged for a good number of well struck extra base hits — six homers, four doubles, and a triple. Key match-ups: Asdrubal Cabrera (13-44, 2 2B, 2 RBI, 3 BB), David DeJesus (8-22, 2B, 3B, 3 RBI, 2 BB), James Loney (5-13, 2B, RBI, BB), Rene Rivera (1-3).
Justin Masterson: Tampa Bay, historically, has loved facing Masterson, especially over the last three seasons. Masterson has allowed 12 runs and 15 walks in his last 15-2/3 innings against the Rays. Masterson tends to pound the zone, however, most of the hits he’s allowed this season have come on fastballs and hanging sliders left over the plate. The Rays will look to punish this mistakes.
Key match-ups: Asdrubal Cabrera (3-5, 3B, RBI), Evan Longoria (7-23, 2B, HR, 6 RBI, 3 BB).
The Rays lead the majors in three less than savory departments:
12 Rookies have been used by the Rays this season
14 Rays have been placed on the DL this season
37 Players have been used by the Rays this season