Tampa Bay arrived in Los Angeles for Friday’s series opener knowing full well that they’d be facing a tough Angels team, one the Rays were chasing for a Wild Card berth in the American League. They had no idea that the Angels would improve themselves prior to the game and that they’d then go on to defeat the Rays 3-1 thanks to a strong outing from Dan Haren and another one of the games we’ve come to expect from Albert Pujols.
The Rays actually got the scoring started first. In the top of the 2nd inning, with one out, Jeff Keppinger connected on the first pitch he saw from Haren for a solo home run to left field. It was his fourth home run of the season and the start of what would be a solid evening for the day’s designated hitter. Keppinger went 3 for 4 on the day, adding a 7th inning double and a stolen base to his solo home run.
Unfortunately the Rays offense failed to otherwise show up for the game. The team managed just six hits on the game, with only one coming from someone other than Keppinger after the 8th inning (a Desmond Jennings pinch-hit single). Sam Fuld and Ben Zobrist had the team’s other two hits on the game, both doubles.
Haren picked up the win, pushing his record to 8-8 in what has been a trying season for the right-hander. He’s struggled with consistency and has seen a significant spike in his WHIP that has lead directly to a jump in his ERA after finishing in the Top 10 in AL Cy Young Award voting last year. Haren threw 6.0 innings in the game, allowing just the five hits while walking one and striking out six. He lowered his season ERA to 4.59.
The struggles Haren has endured this year at least in part prompted a significant trade that the Angels completed late Friday afternoon. The team agreed to send their top prospect, shortstop Jean Segura,and a pair of Double-A right-handers, Ariel Pena and John Hellweg, to the Milwaukee Brewers in exchange for Zack Greinke. The right-hander instantly gives the Angels a very tough 1-2 punch atop their rotation, paring Greinke with Jered Weaver. Greinke’s next start had been slated for Sunday against the Washington Nationals, but it’s unclear when he’ll make his Angels debut and if the Rays will still be in town to face him.
Los Angeles answered the Rays scoring in the bottom of the 3rd inning. Rays starter Alex Cobb was able to get two quick outs to begin the inning, inducing ground outs from both Maicer Izturis and Bobby Wilson, but then allowed back-to-back singles to Mike Trout and Torii Hunter. Albert Pujols stepped to the plate next and took a 1-1 pitch to left field that Fuld nearly made a diving catch on. Instead, the ball for Pujols’ 26th double of the season, scoring both Trout and Hunter. Mark Trumbo singled two pitches later, driving in Pujols for his 69th RBI before he was thrown out trying to advance to second base and ending the inning.
Like Keppinger, Pujols went 3 for 4 on the game, adding two singles to the double that drove in his 62nd and 63rd RBI of the year. Pujols got off to a terrible start to the season through the month of April but has since turned things around and is looking like his old self again.
Early Friday evening, RCG Editor Robbie Knopf discussed how important Cobb may prove to be to this Rays team, particularly in the coming two months depending on what moves the team chooses to make prior to Tuesday’s trade deadline (specifically the fate of James Shields). Part of the team’s decision whether or not they will move Shields will largely depend on who they feel comfortable using to replace him in the starting rotation from a group of possibilities comprised essentially of a trio of Cobb, Chris Archer, and the soon-to-be-rehabbing Jeff Niemann. Cobb, while no star, could prove to be a valuable piece of this Rays team in the coming years if he’s able to be an affordable option at the back end of the rotation.
Cobb pitched well in the game, with the exception of that 3rd inning. He made it through 7.0 innings, allowing the three runs on eight hits while striking out three. The loss dropped him to 4-8 on the year.
A pair of lefties will take the mound for Saturday’s game, with Matt Moore (6-7, 4.23) opposing C.J. Wilson (9-6, 2.89).
* With Robbie taking some much-deserved vacation time over the next two weeks you’ll be seeing a lot more content from Staff Writer David Hill around these parts, plus a few items Robbie’s scheduled in advance so that you don’t miss him while he’s gone. I’ll be stopping in from time to time to help him out as well. My name is Aaron Somers. I’m the Editorial Director here for FanSided MLB and the Senior Editor & Lead Writer for our Washington Nationals site, District on Deck. In addition to the great staff here at RCG, feel free to follow me on Twitter @AaronJSomers.