Sometimes it feels like nothing is going your way. All the calls go against you, all their bloopers find grass while yours are caught, and all the little things add up as you get increasingly demoralized. That has been the case for the Rays the past two games- but it isn’t just bad luck. On Monday, they lost in the worst possible fashion, on a bad call, but that wouldn’t have been necessary had their offense shown up for the first 7 innings of the game. And on Tuesday, Roberto Hernandez seemed victimized by terrible fortune, but that was not the case with the offense, which simply looked overwhelmed. Luck fluctuates back in forth, sometimes in your favor, sometimes not. The pendulum will swing back towards the Rays. But that’s not within the Rays’ control and their focus has to be on doing their part execute and seizing the opportunities they get. The season is just beginning, but they’re not doing that at all right now and that has to change immediately.
Roberto Hernandez looked really good for the Rays on Tuesday. Nevertheless, he allowed 6 runs, 5 earned, on 8 hits in 6.2 innings. How is that possible? Here were the Rangers’ run-scoring hits in the game: 1) a bloop single by Lance Berkman in the 3rd to score 2 runs 2) a groundball single up the middle by Elvis Andrus in the 5th 3) an Adrian Beltre groundout in the 5th 4) an Andrus groundout in the 6th 5) with Jake McGee on in relief of Hernandez, an error by James Loney. That pretty much sums it up- no line drives, no extra base hits, and few hard groundballs as well, simply allowing soft contact and everything finding a hole. Hernandez was further set back by several missed calls on excellent sinkers that looked like a ball all the way before coming back over the inside corner to left-handed batters. As Brian Anderson described it on the Rays broadcast, the umpire simply gave up on those pitches, costing Hernandez big strikes in key spots. Hernandez’s secondary pitches were inconsistent but his sinker moved about as good as you’ll ever see, forcing groundall after groundball with nice sink per usual but also flashing big-time run in towards right-handed batters to make them look foolish and sharp late bite that Anderson said made Hernandez’s sinker seem almost like a slider. His pitches moved so well that he was all over the place at times, hitting two batters and losing control on a pitch that went up-and-in, but for the most part he was sharp and primed to deliver a great outing. However, Lady Luck just happened to be squarely against him and his final numbers were not nearly indicative of how good he looked. If Hernandez’s sinker continues to look like that, though, his stats by the time the season comes to a close will be better than anyone could have hoped.
If Hernandez had gotten better luck, he might have gone say 7 innings allowing 2 runs. Even if he had done that, there’s a pretty good chance the Rays would have lost this game nevertheless. The Rays dug in against Rangers rookie right-hander Nick Tepesch and quickly dug their own graves in this game. Tepesch surrendered 3 walks in the game, all in the 2nd inning, but the Rays left the bases loaded. The Rays had a chance to down Tepesch’s outing in the 2nd and completely blew it. The following inning, Desmond Jennings doubled off of him and later scored on a Ben Zobrist groundball. That was basically it for the Rays’ chances. From the 3rd all the way to the 8th, Tepesch had a stretch where he retired 15 of 16 batters, including 11 outs on the ground, as the Rays let him get comfortable and proceeded to get dominated. For good measure, they also blew a 2nd and 3rd, 1 out situation in the 8th after Tepesch departed, going down feebly against lefty Robbie Ross. Tepesch was incredible and deserves a lot of credit. He went 7.1 innings allowing just 1 run on 4 hits, striking out 5 while walking 3. But the Rays looked absolutely lost in the batters’ box and they can’t just chock that all up to Tepesch. They were disastrous and they paid the price in this game as the Rangers 4-hit them on their way to an easy 6-1 victory.
Beyond Hernandez’s great stuff but poor results, there were a few positives in the game for the Rays, and those were the performances Desmond Jennings, Brandon Gomes, and Kelly Johnson. Jennings went 2 for 4 with a pair of doubles and the Rays’ only run scored, seeming to be the Rays’ only hitter with any life in his body. Gomes worked the 8th and looked really good, allowing a single to begin the inning before retiring the next three in order, most notably retiring Ian Kinsler on a nasty slider. And then there was Johnson, who has really struggled this season but did a great job throwing out Kinsler at second base in the 7th inning and then got a scratch single on a swinging bunt in the 8th. Johnson and Yunel Escobar have done almost nothing for the Rays this season, but maybe this is the game that gets Johnson going a little bit and Escobar should be on the way soon as well.
The Rays look to salvage the final game of their 3-game set with the Rangers and build some momentum on Wednesday as they take on Texas in a matinee at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington at 2:05 PM. It will be a battle of talented lefties as Matt Moore opposes Derek Holland, and the Rays desperately need Moore to build off his strong season debut and help deliver them to a much-needed win.