Game 43: Floodgates Open as Rays Drop Opener to Jays 6-2


0 for 3. That’s not a good game, but it happens. But that is not hits divided by at-bats. That is double plays per opportunities for the Rays in the 8th inning. The Rays trailed already to begin the inning. By the time that disaster was over, the game was out of reach as well.

The game began with a literal stroke of luck for the Rays. With 1 out in the bottom of the first, B.J. Upton hit what appeared to be an ordinary flyball to center off of Jays starter Kyle Drabek. Colby Rasmus went back towards the track before apparently losing sight of the ball as it dropped in front of him. Upton ended up at second on the play but immediately began talking to the umpire about the fact that the ball hit one of the catwalks in the stadium and according to Tropicana Field’s ground rules, should have been called a home run. The umpires went to replay before justifying B.J.’s claim and allowing him to go the extra 180 feet for the home run. His trot took only… 5 minutes. The Rays had a 1-0 lead. But that lead went away in the bottom of the inning. Edwin Encarnacion singled to begin the inning but then he got J.P. Arencibia to hit a grounder to Sean Rodriguez. Rodriguez fed Will Rhymes for the force, but Rhymes throw was off-line and got past Carlos Pena, allowing Arencibia to go to 2nd base on the play. Eric Thames immediately made the Rays pay for the error, drilling a single to center to score Arencibia and tie the game at 1 apiece.

The Jays added to their lead in the third on a Rasmus double and subsequent Kelly Johnson sac fly. But the Rays’ tied it up in the bottom of the inning against Drabek and the Jays. After B.J. Upton popped out to begin the inning (this one didn’t hit a catwalk), Matt Joyce walked and advanced to 2nd on a wild pitch. After Carlos Pena struck out, a second wild pitch moved Joyce to 3rd. After Luke Scott walked, Sean Rodriguez came through with an RBI single to tie the game and then a third wild pitch in the inning gave the Rays a couple of runners in scoring position with 2 outs. But Will Rhymes flied out and the game remained tied. At that point in the game, the Rays had less hits off of Drabek (2) as Drabek threw wild pitches (3).

The Jays retook the lead against Hellickson in the 6th inning on a Yunel Escobar solo homer on a high changeup from Hellickson. Hellickson got by with excellent fastball command, but the butter to his bread, his usually dominant changeup wasn’t as sharp. Hellickson followed with a double play ball to escape the 7th as he threw just 97 pitches in those 7 innings. He wasn’t dominant, but he was efficient and kept the Rays in the game.

The Rays got a Ben Zobrist single to lead off the 7th inning. But after B.J. Upton struck out, Ben Zobrist went on the first pitch to Matt Joyce and was caught stealing, leaving the Rays dejected. Zobrist is just 3 of 7 on the season on stolen base attempts. Joyce struck out to end the once-promising inning. But the Zobrist caught stealing was just the start of the Rays in this game.

Hellickson began the 8th for the Rays but the inning did not begin well as Rasmus drilled another double. Hellickson then fanned Jeff Mathis, but he was instructed to intentionally walk Kelly Johnson before departing. In came Burke Badenhop, who has pitched extremely well of late. Badenhop immediately got a groundball right back to the mound off the bat of Escobar, maybe not a double play ball but at least one sure out. Instead, the ball went under Badenhop’s glove for an error and the bases were loaded. But then Jose Bautista hit a groundball to third. But Sean Rodriguez’s throw sailed wide of second base and went into right field as Will Rhymes couldn’t do anything as the runner Escobar was sliding into him, allowing 2 runs to score. Then Edwin Encarnacion hit another groundball to third. Rodriguez fed Rhymes for one but Rhymes could not get a good throw as Jose Bautista bore down on him, allowing the inning’s third run to score. Finally Badenhop struck out J.P. Arencibia to end the inning. The Rays went down quietly against Francisco Cordero in the 8th and Casey Janssen in the 9th as they lost 6-2.

Use whatever metric you want: ERA, FIP, xFIP, or SIERA: Jeremy Hellickson won this starting pitching battle. But baseball is a game of opportunities and the Rays failed to capitalize against Drabek while the Rays made Hellickson and the Rays pay for every mistake. Drabek earned the win in this game, improving to 4-4 on the year, but he had no idea where the ball was going. He allowed just 2 runs on 3 hits in 6 innings, but he allowed 6 walks while striking out just 3.  Just 64 of his 118 pitches were strikes versus 54 balls. He threw 3 wild pitches and threw others when runners weren’t on base. But the Rays simply could not take advantage. Hellickson, meanwhile, takes his first loss of the season to fall to 4-1 despite giving the Rays everything he had on a night where he did not have his best stuff. He allowed 5 runs, but just 2 of them were earned, on 8 hits, striking out 3 while walking just 1 and that walk was intentional just before he departed. 70 of his 108 pitches were strikes. His groundout to airout ratio was 8-3. But his defense let him down and his offense got him nothing and the result was a loss when Hellickson gave them every chance to win. The Rays fall to 25-18 on the season. Matt Moore looks to play the role of stopper on Tuesday night as he opposed the Jays’ Drew Hutchinson. We get it, the Rays have 10 players on the DL. But the Rays have play better on defense and take advantage of the opportunities to get. It doesn’t matter who you have on your team if you can’t execute.