Split-squad games always make things crazy. Not only do fans have two games they’re trying to keep track of at the same time, but the team is split up and lower-level minor leaguers often have to see time because their aren’t enough backups to go around. The results of the Rays trying to play two games instead of one was a pair of losses, but there were still several things to be excited about.
Orioles 6, Rays 3
Jeff Niemann got the start for the Rays in this one and tossed 4 shutout innings to begin his outing, allowing just 3 hits and striking out 4, but his last two innings were a different story. The Orioles struck for 2 runs on 4 hits in the 5th inning, and then in the 6th, Jonathan Schoop slammed a 3-run home run to give the Orioles a 5-3 lead in the game that was 6-3 by the time the game ended. Niemann got hit hard, going 6 innings allowing 5 runs on 10 hits, although he did strike out 5 while walking 1 as his curveball and changeup looked good. But with his fastball staying in the mid-80’s and up in the zone, Niemann allowed way too much hard contact (5 line drives), and Niemann has to find a way to get his fastball working better to succeed moving forward.
The highlights of the game for the Rays were a 3-run double by Evan Longoria in the 3rd inning, strong innings of work by Kyle Farnsworth and Brandon Gomes, and a hit each by Jose Molina, playing his first game back in camp since the WBC, and minor league catcher Jake DePew, which was especially impressive since he played last year at Short Season-A. The Rays were held to just 4 hits in the game and Niemann’s performance continues to be disconcerting, but at least Longo is looking great and Molina is getting on track.
Pirates 6, Rays 4
Alex Cobb also had his share of struggles in this one, allowing 3 runs between the 3rd and 4th innings, but he was able to keep himself together and have a good outing, going 6.1 innings allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, striking out 5 while walking 3 and posting a 10-1 groundout to flyout ratio. The Rays rallied for 3 runs in the 6th to take a short-lived lead in this one, with Ben Zobrist homering and Luke Scott and Chris Gimenez each hitting RBI doubles, but the minor league pitching duo of Dane De La Rosa and Kirby Yates allowed 3 runs in the 8th to seal the Pirates’ win. Zobrist and Scott both had encouraging games, going 2 for 4, and also collecting a hit was Rays organizational catcher Craig Albernaz, which was nice. Tough to see this lead get away, but the major leaguers played well, and you can certainly take the positives from this game.