Abnormal is often normal when it comes to Tampa bay Rays baseball and that certainly was true last weekend. It all started with the Orioles vs. Rays three-game series being shifted from Baltimore to Tampa Bay amid civil unrest in Baltimore. It was then decided that all three contests would still be home games for the Orioles. Batting practice, uniforms and who leads off each inning would all follow Baltimore home rules. If all of that weren’t confusing enough, tickets for the game would be $15.00 general admission in the lower deck seating area only.
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I couldn’t pass up this adventure, so I purchased two tickets for Friday’s game and my wife and I hopped the free trolley just in time for the gates to open. We wandered over to our favorite location behind the third base dugout settled into two great seats 10 rows back of the dugout. Those are regular $40.00 tickets. Usually we wouldn’t get to see the Rays hit batting practice but because they were the visiting team, they were in the cage second. It was worth the price of admission just to watch James Loney. He hit pitch after pitch off the right field wall or into the seats. He certainly has a sweet swing.
As we were by the visitors dugout, we were mixed in with some Orioles fans. They are generally an enthusiastic and pleasant group. The do have some annoying oddities such as shouting “O” in the middle of the National Anthem and spelling out Orioles to the instruction of the team mascot.
The game itself was a barnburner. In his first start of the year, Alex Colome was spot on. He threw five scoreless innings and featured a fastball in the mid-90’s, an 89 MPH slider, a changeup, and a curve. The Rays scored two runs in the fourth on an Asdrubal Cabrera walk, an Evan Longoria double, and a James Loney single. In a mystery move, Cash took out Colome after the fifth. He had only thrown 60 pitches and was not coming off an arm injury.
In this case, it all worked out as Brandon Gomes, Steve Geltz, Kevin Jepsen, and Brad Boxberger threw four innings of scoreless baseball and struck seven of the twelve betters they faced. The Rays won the game 2-0 and were off to a great start to the series.
Unfortunately, that was the end of the good news for the weekend. On Saturday, Chris Archer was slightly off and gave up four runs. The Rays offense got only four hits and zero runs. The Rays lost 4-0. Sunday looked like it was going to be a repeat of Friday night. The Rays were cruising along with a two run lead in the fifth and Nate Karns was tossing a two hitter when Cash suddenly pulled him after 66 pitches. I guess he was looking for a repeat of Friday but instead Gomes, Geltz, and Jepsen gave up four runs and it was game over. The Rays lost 4-2.
How did this weekend go so terribly wrong? We can blame it on a bad outing by Chris Archer. We can blame it on a rare bullpen implosion. We can blame it on Kevin Cash pulling the starters too early. Heck, we can blame it on Logan Forsythe over-sliding third base and getting tagged out on what should have been a triple. However, the truth is the blame really belongs to the offense.
All you have to do is look at the numbers to figure it out. The Rays got eleven hits and scored four runs over three games. That’s not even a good one game boxscore in the America League East. Evan Longoria was one for nine and drove in one run and seemed to have no power. Steven Souza Jr. struck out nine times in twelve at bats and looksed totally confused at the plate. Asdrubal Cabrera and Rene Rivera were zero for fifteen as their batting averages sunk farther below the Mendoza line.
You can bring back Alex Cobb, Matt Moore, Jake McGee ,and throw in David Price and this team still wouldn’t go anywhere with those kind of offensive numbers. At least yesterday’s game versus the Boston Red Sox were more encouraging as the Rays scored five runs, an output they need to find a way to deliver more often.
It was a weekend of strange baseball. The home team was the visiting team. You could sit anywhere you wanted for $15.00. Two rookie pitchers throw shutout ball and are mysteriously pulled after 60 pitches. Three relief pitchers are lights out one day and a disaster the next. Plus the Tampa Bay Rays ‘two, three and four hitters go one for twenty-eight. However, in the end, the only numbers that really count are the Rays losing two out of three.