There is something emotionally draining about a four-game series like the Tampa Bay Rays just played. On the other hand, here’s some perspective: the Rays just had an absolutely horrific homestand, yet the worst they can be by the end of today is 2 games back in the AL East. This is rock bottom. This is the Rays playing like the cynics thought they would play. But if they get back on track right now, they have half a season to make us forget that these 10 games ever happened or better yet, turn them into a rallying point. Every Rays fan has had enough, and so has every Rays player. And this game may be the last straw.
Matt Moore‘s first start back certainly could have better. However, I don’t buy the narrative of him falling apart in the fifth inning. With two outs in the frame, Moore allowed single, walk, single, single to make it a 2-2 game. That is true. What goes unmentioned is that three of the four hits came on the ground. If any of them went to a fielder, we would be raving about how well Moore finished. Instead, his luck was poor and he gave up a pair of runs to put the Rays behind 4-2.
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Overall, he finished with 4.2 innings allowing 4 runs on 6 hits, striking out 4 while walking 2. None of the hits went for extra bases–he was vintage Moore in the sense that it was difficult for hitters to square him up. He has enough action on his pitches that he can be successful whenever he throws strikes. He wasn’t throwing particularly hard in this game, averaging 90.79 MPH between his two fastballs, although he did touch as high as 93.9 MPH early in the game. Still, the weak contact was encouraging and hopefully he can get stronger.
The Rays offense also had its moments in this game. Three straight singles from Joey Butler, Evan Longoria, and Grady Sizemore scored a run before a throwing error from Yan Gomes brought home another. Then, in the sixth inning, the Rays scored 2 huge runs to tie the game on RBI singles by Sizemore and Asdrubal Cabrera. Sizemore easily could have been out at home had Francisco Lindor had the presence of mind to throw home–the Rays received luck of their own to score those runs–but it was nice just to see them make something happen offensively.
Unfortunately, after Steve Geltz, Jake McGee, Brad Boxberger, and Kevin Jepsen had followed Moore by allowing only 2 baserunners in 4.1 shutout innings of relief, Mike Aviles delivered the gut punch. He tagged Xavier Cedeno for a solo homer in the 10th, and the Rays lost 5-4. We can also talk about how lost the Rays’ lineup looked after those 2 runs in the sixth on their way to a franchise-record 19 strikeouts. In the other games of the series, there were no-hit bids to begin games–in this one, the last 13 Rays were retired, an insane 11 via the strikeout.
But now it’s over. Now the Tampa Bay Rays can leave the house of horrors that Tropicana Field was for the last 10 games and recompose themselves. They can take the positives and do everything in their power to ignore the negatives. And no matter how hopeless the last 10 games seemed, everyone knows that the Rays are better than this and that this funk can only last so long. Their next chance is Friday night at 7:05 PM, when Chris Archer opposes Masahiro Tanaka.