Apr 8, 2013; Arlington, TX, USA; Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon (70) argues a strike call ending the game against the Texas Rangers with umpire Mike Everitt (57) at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Rangers won 5-4. Mandatory Credit: Jim Cowsert-USA TODAY Sports

Game 7: The Actual Recap- Discussing Jeremy Hellickson, The Rays Bullpen, Evan Longoria

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We know all about the blown call to end the game. Feel free to rant in the comments here. Now let’s talk about the rest of the game.

Jeremy Hellickson started for the Rays and was bad, but unlike David Price on Sunday, he didn’t completely implode. He went 5 innings allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, striking out just 1 while walking 3. The big blows were back-to-back home runs by A.J. Pierzynski and Mitch Moreland in the 4th inning. Hellickson labored through the first two innings, throwing 52 pitches, and threw 98 overall in his 5 frames. What happened? The short answer was that this is what Hellickson looks like when his changeup simply doesn’t have it. He threw a few good ones, but way too many looked nothing like strikes or stayed up in the zone, and pairing with that with far from perfect fastball command and Hellickson was in serious trouble. He couldn’t put away hitters at all and was stuck simply trying to throw strikes and hoping for the best. Maybe Hellickson could have salvaged his outing but going to his curveball more- he threw a few good ones after struggling with it mightily in his first start- but Hellickson had terrible stuff overall and it’s amazing that he lasted as long as he did.

Jeremy Hellickson might be the most frustrating pitcher in baseball to watch when he’s off- but despite everything he survived and kept the Rays in this game. Hellickson is the Rays’ number two starter and he did exactly what a top-of-the-rotation guy has to do when his stuff is nonexistent and that’s battle and keep his team in the game nevertheless. Hellickson’s season has gotten off to a poor start, but if this is what he’s like at his absolute worst, imagine how good he’ll be when everything is working. Hopefully Hellickson can take the positives from this outing and finally get himself together in his next time out.

The Rays’ bullpen continues to struggle. Brandon Gomes and Jamey Wright were great in the 6th and 8th respectively, with Wright flashing a nasty curveball and finally looking like the pitcher the Rays thought they signed, but in the 7th, Cesar Ramos and Kyle Farnsworth combined to allow 2 runs. However, Ramos’ 2 hits allowed with both softly hit balls that were just perfectly placed, and Farnsworth was great in recording the first two outs of the inning before a little line drive single did him in. There’s work still to be done, but there were encouraging signs as well and before we know it, the Rays’ bullpen could be back among the best in baseball.

On offense, this game was the Evan Longoria show and who knows how it could have ended had Longoria gotten the at-bat he should have gotten in the 9th. Longoria went 3 for 3 with 3 singles and a walk, scoring the Rays’ only run before the 8th in the 2nd inning. Longo is hitting .417 so far this season, but bizarrely all 10 of his hits have been singles. How is that possible for such a formidable power hitter? Well, we saw in this game how when Longoria fell behind in the count, he shortened up his swing and seemed to smack line drives to the outfield at will. Overall on the season, 6 of Longoria’s 10 hits have come with 2 strikes. Longoria hasn’t done a great job getting ahead in the count and finding pitches to hit and really tap into his power as he’s still not really comfortable in the box. But even though he’s been falling behind pitchers Longoria is such a great hitter that that he can make adjustments and continue to rack up hits even without his approach at the plate right, and if he’s hitting over .400, the Rays will certainly take that while it lasts. This hasn’t been the Evan Longoria we’re used to at the plate. However, the power should be right around the corner and if his two strike approach persists, maybe his first .300 season at the plate could be in the works as well.

Anyone care to explain what happened in the 9th before the horrific ending? How in the world did both Jose Molina and Sean Rodriguez come up with huge clutch singles in the 9th? And Molina even stole second base! It’s kind of sad that the Rays had those two even batting with the game on the line in the 9th, but they made the most of their opportunities. Unfortunately, the blown call took away what could have been a magical ending and if the Rays ever are stuck with Molina and Rodriguez in a clutch situation again, it probably won’t go very well.

Once again, no one can believe how this one ended and it’s just sad that something like that took place. But let’s try to relax, take in the positives, and enjoy as the Rays bounce back from this game as motivated as ever versus the Rangers tonight.

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Tags: Evan Longoria Jamey Wright Jeremy Hellickson Jose Molina Sean Rodriguez Tampa Bay Rays

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