Lights Out Bullpen No Longer

Randi Owens and I were chatting during the 16 inning marathon on Sunday night and marveling at how well the bullpen was pitching during that particular game . The bullpen certainly hasn’t been as good this year as it was last year, but so far it was hard to pinpoint an example when they had actually cost the Rays a game. Well, last night was the first such example, but also the sign of a disturbing trend.

The Rays initially put aside 16 innings of futility by scoring three runs in the first inning. They added to it in the second with the help of Robinson Chirinos double for his first major league hit. He later scored his first major league run.

Alex Cobb was doing a terrific job in helping that lead hold up. He had a 4-2 in the fifth when the lights went out at the Trop due to lightning. The game was delayed 18 minutes right in the middle of an important Curtis Granderson at bat. Cobb got the out to get out of the jam. Overall he went six strong innings.

Even though the bullpen worked a scoreless seventh, it was the beginning of the meltdown. Joel Peralta came in, got two outs, but then allowed a single. Cesar Ramos was brought in and allowed a walk before striking out Mark Teixeira. Ramos faltered in the eighth which forced Maddon to bring in Kyle Farnsworth with two men on and one out. Farnsworth allowed two singles to bring the Yankees within a run. Eduardo Nunez grounded into a run-scoring force out that the Rays almost turned into a double play. The damage was done.

Alex Torres made his major league debut in the ninth and while Maddon was impressed with his performance the results weren’t there. He allowed a single and then three straight walks to give up the game-winning run.

Now that the Rays have lost five of their last six, I have a feeling that this season might be slipping away. To help prevent that, this team needs to add a reliable arm in the bullpen. Either that or Maddon has to start trusting Ramos or Peralta to pitch a full inning. Too many times Farnsworth has  been brought into the eight in tough spots. He’s bound to falter once in a while and last night he did.

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