Once again, Chris Archer struggled for the Tampa Bay Rays. (Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)
Before I get to the gory details of another Tampa Bay Rays loss, I just want to wish the mothers who read Rays Colored Glasses a Happy Mothers Day.
It was bound to be a bad combination frankly. Every time I write a recap, the Rays seem to lose and today was no different. Of recent, I have drawn Chris Archer starts and, frankly, this is getting depressing. At some point, you have to feel that Archer is going to figure out what he is doing wrong and fix it. Right now, he is just digging the collective hole deeper and deeper. A lack of movement on his slider and command on his fast ball are what is killing him. His slider doesn’t have much run on it at the moment and is getting hit frequently. His fastball couldn’t hit the broadside of a barn much less consistently be thrown for strikes. Coming into the game today against the Cleveland Indians, Archer had been throwing his four-seam less and less, going from 40% of the time four starts ago against the Yankees, to 36%, 30%, and 14%. Velocity has remained pretty much the same on all his pitches, but he just is not throwing with much conviction so far this year. Add in that he’s not using his changeup at all, and that’s a recipe for disaster.
If you are looking for reasons why the Rays are off to this start, it really begins and ends with the starting pitching. I know you’re going to say, “No duh, Thomas. Everyone’s won-loss record is dependent on their starters.” The one thing a starting pitcher can control is the pitch he throws. He cannot control the weather, other players’ emotional states, or whether his catcher is more concerned with catching up on the Woody Allen retrospective playing at the local theater. But I will say this unequivocally: the Rays are one of the best defenses is baseball, so when the starters constantly run counts to 3-2 and do not utilize that defense, they are going against the team’s most consistent and biggest strength. The starters nibble, issue walks, and run their pitch counts up early. They are out by the fifth and Joe Maddon has to turn to a bullpen that has been shell-shocked. You can blame Heath Bell, Josh Lueke, and Joel Peralta all you want, but David Price, Chris Archer and Jake Odorizzi need to hold themselves accountable first and foremost. Last year, James Loney, Ben Zobrist, Yunel Escobar and Evan Longoria were Gold Glove finalists. It’s a pretty good bet that, if the ball is hit to them, it will be caught. Starting pitching is the pace setter for any team and, when it performs the way the Rays starters have, it is a recipe for disaster. I don’t care that Alex Cobb, Matt Moore and Jeremy Hellickson are injured. That is just an excuse and the Rays are digging a hole that, at some point, may be too big to climb out of.
Some of you may point at the offense and say it is inconsistent. Wil Myers is sometimes good and sometimes forgets that the strike zone doesn’t extend six feet into the left-handed batters box. Ben Zobrist has gone through a slump, as has Evan Longoria. But we’ve played this record before. Going into the game today, the Rays are 4-18 when their starters don’t go six innings and 12-3 when they go six or better. Chris Archer went five innings, gave up eight hits and walked four. He threw 100 pitches, 58 for strikes. The Tampa Bay Rays lost and nothing else matters. I won’t waste your time talking about the rest of the game.