The Tampa Bay Rays lost 6-1 to the Atlanta Braves on Friday, but there will still several positives to take.
Chris Archer showed midseason form today, allowing just one run in his longest outing of the spring. Mixing a fastball that hit 96 on the radar gun with sliders and curves that dipped and spun between 88 and 81 mph, Archer struck out 6 and kept the Braves off base and off balance until two outs in the bottom of the fifth. Archer walked Jordan Schafer, who stole second and came in on a Jason Heyward single.
Jose Molina’s alert base running manufactured the Rays’ only run in the third. After waving at two pitches like a man heading off on a business trip, Molina fisted an inside pitch into left for a single. With two strikes to Cole Figueroa, Molina started chugging for second base. This surprised all 8,700 spectators and, apparently, catcher Gerald Laird, whose double pumped throw was late and wide. Molina took third on Figueroa’s grounder to the right side. Molina’s speed down the third base line must have worried Braves shortstop Andrelton Simmons because he took his eye off Ray Olmedo’s bouncer just long enough for it to skip under his glove into center. Molina jogged home. Then, a single from Desmond Jennings and a walk to Matt Joyce loaded the bases with two outs. The inning ended when Wil Myers hit a slow roller to short.
That was all the offense the Rays could muster on this sunny, warm, Florida afternoon. Myers went 0-3, grounding out each time. It’s only spring, but Rays fans would like to see him start hitting a little better with the season only two weeks away. Matt Joyce was 0-2 with one walk. The competitors for the 25th spot on the team didn’t help their causes. Jerry Sands went 0-3 with two strikeouts, Jeremy Moore also went 0-3 and Brandon Guyer flied out pinch-hitting.
Sands did make two nice plays at first, ranging to his right for slow rollers and throwing to the pitcher covering. One play almost ended Chris Archer’s day in the first inning. Heyward hit a slow roller toward second. Sands and Figueroa hesitated for a split second before Sands moved over to make the play. Archer, covering first, stretched for the throw, made the play but fell down. After checking him out and watching some pitches, the Rays let Archer stay in the game.
Steve Geltz finished the fifth for Archer. He gave up a loud homer to Joey Terdoslavich for one run, but struck out three. Santiago Garrido got his two men out. In the bottom of the 8th, with the Rays trailing by just 2-1, Sam Runion had one of the worst innings a pitcher could have. Facing a lineup of Braves subs, he walked the first batter, hit the next, and gave up a single just past the drawn-in shortstop. He then gave up a single, home run, and another single, before getting a double play. Elmer Reyes followed that double play with a single. After than, Runion was finally allowed to sit down and Jake Thompson got the last out.
Tomorrow the Rays play split squad games against the Toronto Blue Jays and Pittsburgh Pirates. Erik Bedard will start in Port Charlotte against the Blue Jays and Jake Odorizzi will head up to Bradenton to face the Pirates. Cesar Ramos, another contender to fill the fifth spot in the rotation, is also scheduled to pitch in Bradenton. Both games are available on Gameday Audio at 1:05 PM. Come back to Rays Colored Glasses tomorrow for game previews and recaps.