The Tampa Bay Rays got off to a nice start against the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night, receiving first-inning singles from Steven Souza Jr. and Evan Longoria before James Loney got them on the board with a sac fly. However, the Braves tied the game on an Alberto Callaspo single in the bottom of the third, and by the middle of the next inning, we could see the outcome of this game coming. Jake Odorizzi pitched well but not perfectly and the Rays managed just that lone run to support him in their 2-1 loss to Atlanta.
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Odorizzi finished with 6 innings allowing 2 runs on 4 hits, striking out 2 while walking 2. The walks were his first since April 23rd while the two strikeouts tied his fewest ever in a start that lasted at least five innings. Instead, we got to see a different side of Odorizzi as he forced an 8-3 groundout to flyout ratio. The reason Odorizzi had to adapt was simple: he could not command his fastball up in the zone. His split-change looked great, but the high fastball, his other strikeout pitch, did not force a single swing-and-miss the entire game.
It was most apparent that Odorizzi didn’t have his fastball when he faced Jace Peterson with two outs and a runner on third base in the third inning. Peterson worked a 10-pitch at-bat, and nine of the ten pitches that Odorizzi threw were split-changes. He got a whiff on a 1-0 splitter, but Peterson fouled off pitch after pitch after that on his way to a walk. The splitter-heavy approach wasn’t always so bad–Odorizzi escaped that inning by striking out Freddie Freeman on five splitters–but it certainly made things more difficult.
Despite the way he had to battle to get through this game, though, Odorizzi easily could have come away with a win. Instead, the Tampa Bay Rays offense got runners on base only to leave them there. It started in the fourth inning as the Rays looked to respond to the Braves tying the game. A walk and two singles loaded the bases with one out, but Williams Perez got Asdrubal Cabrera to ground into a 3-6-1 double play to escape the inning.
In the following frame, singles from Rene Rivera and Kevin Kiermaier gave the Rays a pair of baserunners, but Souza Jr. and Longoria each struck out to end the inning. In the sixth, James Loney led off with a double but never ever made it to third base. Then, in the eighth and ninth innings, the Rays found hope with two outs, getting a Logan Forsythe walk in the former frame and a Brandon Guyer singled in the latter. In both cases, the innings were over two or less pitches later.
Steve Geltz and Xavier Cedeno pitched well behind Odorizzi in relief, with Geltz working his way past a double and a walk while Cedeno struck out 2 in a perfect frame. By then, however, it was too late as the Braves had a 2-1 lead that the Rays could not overcome. The Rays offense has been doing better of late–they actually entered this game averaging 5 runs in their last 13 contests. Games like this happen to the best teams in baseball. However, it is always frustrating to lose winnable games, and you especially have to feel sorry for Jake Odorizzi.
The Rays start a four-game series with the Oakland Athletics at 7:10 PM tomorrow night as Alex Colome takes the mound against a pitcher who was briefly a Ray, Jesse Chavez. Chavez was acquired from the Pittsburgh Pirates in exchange for Akinori Iwamura in November of 2009 before being dealt a month later for Rafael Soriano.