It seems like almost every game that the Tampa Bay Rays have played this year, something goes wrong. If the bullpen and starting pitchers are poor, the offense does great. But when the offense does not do so well, the pitching does great. On Friday night, starter Jake Odorizzi finally performed well after struggling mightily this season. However, it was all in vain, as the bullpen’s blowup as well as an offense that couldn’t come up with enough key hits would cause the Rays to lose to the Cleveland Indiands 6-3. With their fourth loss in a row, the Rays now move to 15-21 on the season, and something is going to need to change fast.
Jake Odorizzi carried an ugly 6.83 ERA into Friday’s start as he has struggled to find a groove this year. Finally tonight things began to click for Odorizzi as he went 5.0 innings while allowing no runs while striking out an outstanding 11 batters. He was not particularly efficient, taking 101 pitches to get through his 5.0 innings, but the Rays will take this performance after Odorizzi has been so bad over his last few outings. The Rays have been messing around with Odorizzi’s pitch selection this year, and they might finally have found a good mix. Odorizzi relied on his fastball and split-changeup the first time through the order before using his fastball and curveball almost exclusively the second and third times through the order. Odorizzi and the Rays might have finally found the ideal pitch mix, and hopefully that means Odorizzi can build off of this solid start.
Odorizzi had a great start, but then the bullpen happened. Brad Boxberger was the first on in relief, and he couldn’t back up his historic night on Wednesday with another good performacne, giving up a run and only getting one out. Jake McGee came on to clean things up for Boxberger, and did his job by getting the next two hitters out. At that point, the Rays were still holding on to a one run lead, but then Joel Peralta came on for the 7th inning. Peralta gave up a trio of runs to make the score 4-2, and could only get one out. Brandon Gomes came on to get the final two outs of the 7th, but he too allowed a pair of runs at the hands of a Mike Aviles home run. Josh Lueke was the bright spot for the Rays bullpen, throwing a perfect final two innings and looking great while doing so. Lueke has been awful this year, but tonight’s game gives hope that the Rays faith in him will eventually be rewarded. The bullpen as a whole was poor tonight, and they could not hold on to the lead that Odorizzi gave them.
Joe Maddon allowed the Tampa Chamber of Commerce to pick the lineup for this game, something that he does once a year, but the Chamber’s lineup didn’t not get the job done. The offense continued their recent inability to get hits in crucial situations, and that led to just three runs despite 12 hits. It also did not help that the Rays drew just 2 walks and struck out 13 times. The Rays opened up the scoring in the bottom of the 4th when James Loney hit a sac fly to drive in David DeJesus. It was Loney’s 19th RBI as he continues to be the Rays most clutch performer this year, something their other hitters could take note of. The Rays added their second run in the 5th when a DeJesus double drove in Matt Joyce. DeJesus accounted for yet another run in the 9th when he doubled again to drive in Logan Forsythe, who replaced Yunel Escobar in the lineup after he suffered a hand injury. Escobar was diagnosed with a bruised thumb, and is day-to-day. The Rays would put the tying run on first base with two outs in the 9th, but once again could not come up with the clutch hit needed. DeJesus was the top performer, going 4-5 with three doubles and being involved in all three of the runs. Forsythe added a 2-4 performance with a double of his own, hopefully a sign that he is going to pull out of his early season slump. Evan Longoria was also 2-4, but ultimately the Rays could not do enough to make up for the bullpen’s blunders.
The Rays and Indians will play game two of the series tomorrow at 7:10 ET back at Tropicana Field. Erik Bedard and Zach McAllister will be on the mound as the Rays look to get back on track. Be sure to come back to Rays Colored Glasses tomorrow for all the Rays analysis that you need.