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Tampa Bay Rays Game 119: Brad Boxberger Can’t Pitch in Ties

By Robbie Knopf
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In baseball, there are a lot of things that should mean nothing but are given significance in players’ minds. The best example is save situations in the ninth inning, and the reason is pretty simple: the save statistic. They really shouldn’t be any different from high-leverage spots in the seventh or eighth innings, but when pitching successfully earns you a save, which increases your earnings in arbitration by a huge amount, it is human nature to value it more.

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Brad Boxberger is actually doing just fine in save situations, but he has developed a mental block for tie games. What else can be the explanation for the following statistic? In tie games, Boxberger has now allowed a .333/.469/.608 line with 13 strikeouts, 12 walks, and 4 homers allowed in 66 plate appearances. In ALL OTHER SITUATIONS, hitters have managed just a .185/.271/.258 line against him with 45 strikeouts, 14 walks, and 2 homers allowed in 140 PA’s. Other than tie games, in which he had no problem at all last year, Boxberger has held hitters to a .529 OPS, even better than his .538 mark from last year. Eight of Boxberger’s nine losses have also come in tie games. Once again, how can we comprehend that other than some sort of mental block?

Boxberger’s tie-game struggles cost the Rays again in this game as he surrendered a walk-off homer to Marwin Gonzalez in the 10th inning. The Rays had received a great outing from Jake Odorizzi, who allowed 1 run on 6 hits in 6 innings, striking out 9 while walking 1. Steve Geltz followed with a perfect frame before Jake McGee delivered one of his more impressive outings even as he allowed the Astros to tie the game at 2. He escaped a second-and-third, no-out situation in the eighth inning before recording the first two outs of the ninth.

As usual, we can really blame this loss on the Rays’ offense. It managed a Curt Casali home run in the fifth inning, but needed tremendous luck to take the lead in the seventh frame. With help from a collision between Gonzalez, the left fielder, and shortstop Carlos Correa that went for a Casali double, the Rays had the bases loaded with one out and Evan Longoria coming up. Longoria then hit a groundball to short that looked like a sure double play ball before Correa’s throw to second base was wild, allowing the Astros to get just one out and Kevin Kiermaier to score.

You could say that after taking the lead like that, the Rays didn’t deserve to win without another run. They had multiple baserunners in the first, second, and the sixth innings without pushing a single runner home, and that was the difference in the game. The Houston Astros had multiple baserunners twice, in the second and eighth innings, and scored both times.

Odorizzi was a highlight in the loss, battling through command issues for much of the game but fighting to ensure that the Astros couldn’t take advantage. By the end of the contest, he had both his high fastball and splitter down working to perfection as he rebounded well from his rough performance against the Braves. The Rays hope is that this is the start of him regaining his form from earlier in the season.

On Wednesday, the Tampa Bay Rays will take on the Houston Astros once again in the third game of the four-game set between the two teams. Nate Karns will head to the mound against Astros ace Dallas Keuchel.

Next: Tampa Bay Rays MiLB Recap: Progress for Matt Moore

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