May 25, 2013; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Jake Odorizzi (23) in the dugout against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Game 26: Gameplan Fails for Jake Odorizzi, Tampa Bay Rays

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In his four starts entering Monday, Jake Odorizzi did not allow a single run the first time through the order yet had just a 6.52 ERA overall. To try to combat that, the Tampa Bay Rays came up with a plan: have Odorizzi stick to simply his fastball and split-change the first time through the batting order before mixing in his breaking balls later on. It did not work well.

Odorizzi struck out two in a perfect first inning, but Alejandro De Aza tagged him for a two-run homer in the second. Another run came in the fourth frame on an Alexei Ramirez RBI triple with nobody out. Odorizzi recorded the next two outs to keep Ramirez at third and looked poised to escape further trouble, but a Marcus Semien RBI double gave Chicago its fourth run. Odorizzi lasted just 4.1 innings allowing 4 runs on 8 hits. Instead of helping him be more successful throughout the game, all the new strategy did was cause Odorizzi to struggle earlier on. Jake Odorizzi on Monday was just the second Rays pitcher not named Chris Archer to throw only two pitches the first time through the batting order, joining Cesar Ramos on April 20th. However, after these disappointing results, the Rays will go back to the drawing board.

We were hearing all night about the rain. It was going to come about two hours into the game, and both sides were expecting a shortened contest. With that in mind, Joe Maddon went to his big guns right when he took out Odorizzi, bringing in Jake McGee. McGee was able to get out of the fifth inning, although he needed an excellent diving grab to Matt Joyce to do so. In the sixth, however, Maddon’s plan to keep the Rays within a run with the game drawing to an early close fell apart entirely. McGee entered the game with an 0.90 ERA and an 11-1 strikeout to walk ratio in 10 innings pitched. But in that sixth inning, he allowed his first two walks of the season, a Tyler Flowers single, and an Adam Eaton two-run double to put the White Sox ahead 6-3. The Rays never drew any closer than that as they lost 7-3.

The Rays did have a few highlights in the game. The first inning was exciting and the exhilaration began immediately as Ben Zobrist drilled the first pitch of the game for a double. Desmond Jennings then laid down a bunt, and two errors by the pitcher Andre Rienzo scored Zobrist as Jennings ended up on second base. Then Matt Joyce hit a flyball to deep right center on which Eaton made an excellent grab, but Jennings scored from second base on a rare two-base sac fly when Eaton hit the ground after he caught the ball. It was all downhill from there for the Rays offense, although David DeJesus did drill an RBI double in the third inning and Zobrist drilled his second double of the game in the ninth.

On the pitching side, Rays fans got to see an exceedingly rare occurrence: Josh Lueke entering a jam and successfully working out of it. Lueke entered the game having allowed 8 of the 9 runners inherited to score, a disastrous 89% rate that was the worst in baseball minimum 8 inherited runners. However, Lueke entered for McGee with two on and two out and got Jose Abreu to ground out to escape the inning. Hopefully it’s something Lueke can build off of–he’s been entirely useless for the Rays so far this year, and it would be nice if he can provide something.

Finally, we had Juan Carlos Oviedo in the 7th showing the form that could make him a major part of the Rays’ bullpen. Oviedo got a couple of weak flyballs before a misplayed popup by Wil Myers and Ben Zobrist gave the White Sox a runner on second base. But Oviedo was unfazed, striking out De Aza in three pitches to end the frame. That strikeout came on a nasty changeup, but equally impressive was Oviedo’s fastball, which increased in velocity as his appearance went on. The Rays’ starting pitching has been disappointing enough, and they need their bullpen to be sharp to make up the difference. Maybe Oviedo can be a part of that.

After losing three of four to the Chicago White Sox, the Rays head to Boston to start a three-game set with the Red Sox. Erik Bedard is lined up to face John Lackey at 7:10 EST–but Rays fans can dream someone to come up from Triple-A to make that start instead.

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Tags: Ben Zobrist Jake McGee Jake Odorizzi Juan Carlos Oviedo Tampa Bay Rays

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