Game 44: Josh Lueke Collapse Negates Jake Odorizzi’s Solid Debut as Rays Lose Opener to Toronto


In order to manage in the major leagues, you often have to take leaps of faiths. Joe Maddon and the Rays took two of those with wildly different results.

Jake Odorizzi was never going to replace David Price, but the Rays called him up hoping he could give them some solid starts and keep them in games. Against the Blue Jays, Odorizzi did exactly that. Things were tough early as he threw 29 pitches in the first inning and allowed a pair of runs on an Adam Lind sac fly and a Brett Lawrie RBI triple, and he threw 22 more pitches in the 2nd giving up a third run on a Melky Cabrera RBI double. The last three innings, though, were much better as he continued to labor, throwing 47 pitches and never less than 15 an inning but also struck out 4 while walking just 1 and kept the Blue Jays off the board. He departed after 5 innings with the score in the game tied 3-3 after the Rays had gotten a Sam Fuld RBI groundout and an Evan Longoria 2-run double. Odorizzi went 5 innings allowing 3 runs on 5 hits, striking out 6 while walking 1. 58 of his 92 pitches were strikes and he will have to do a better job managing his pitch count moving forward, but he also showed quite a bit of potential.

Odorizzi began the game pumping fastballs in the 92-94 MPH range and consistently locating them for strikes. However, he missed up in the zone a little bit too often and didn’t have the feel for his secondary pitches to allow him to succeed as a pitcher. The final three innings of the game, though, Odorizzi’s secondary pitches really shined. His fastball dipped into the 90-92 MPH range and he had more trouble commanding it, but suddenly his breaking pitches emerged as weapons and even his changeup showed some potential. Odorizzi’s curveball with big 11-to-5 break was a big of enough change of pace, coming it at 20 MPH less than his fastball, and had enough depth to force 4 swings-and-misses the 9 times he threw it. He got a grand total of one called strike with it, but it may be the pitch that could be a strikeout offering moving forward with more consistency.

Odorizzi’s slider on the other hand with a shorter, sharper breaking pitch that Odorizzi did a great job throwing for strikes and could use to force contact on the ground. And Odorizzi seemed to be throwing his changeup a little too hard, staying in the 84-85 MPH range instead of  82-83 MPH, but he wasn’t afraid to throw it up in the zone to mirror his fastball and was able to get great movement on it a few times, including a swing-and-miss. Odorizzi still has more work to do on all his pitches, but there is enough promise for him to become a real good major league pitcher and hopefully he can continue to develop in his remaining starts before Price returns.

Josh Lueke had pitched so well in his first four appearances for Joe Maddon that Maddon decided to give him a chance to appear in a higher-leverage spot, a 3-3 game in the 7th inning. Lueke had the opportunity to prove that his electric arm deserved more time with games on the line. Lueke completely blew it, Lueke walked three of the first five batters he faced before allowing a bases-clearing 3-run double to Edwin Encarnacion to give Toronto a 7-3 lead. The biggest issue was that Lueke was tentative. He was overthrowing his fastball and leaving it up and out of the zone when if he could simply throw it for strikes, hitters would have been overpowered. And then enough Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, Lueke basically stopped throwing his fastball entirely, throwing it just once among his seven pitches as he pitched scared and got beat with a pitch other than his best one. It’s only one appearance and hopefully Lueke can learn from this, but his disastrous outing played a major part in the Rays losing this game.

Yunel Escobar was able to get the Rays to within 7-5 in the 9th by slamming a 2-run home run off of Casey Janssen, but the deficit was just too large to overcome as that 7-5 score was the final. It was a tough loss for the Rays as Odorizzi pitched well and their offense got some clutch hits but the bullpen could not do the job, with Lueke and Kyle Farnsworth allowing 4 runs. The Rays will hope to rebound tomorrow as Alex Cobb takes on the Blue Jays’ Ramon Ortiz.