Chris Archer has dealt with inconsistent results of late for the Tampa Bay Rays, but on Wednesday night, he was perfectly fine. He got past 4 hits and 4 walks to give up 2 runs in 6 innings, striking out 7. He overcame a fastball that went for a strike just 31 of the 58 times he threw it (53.4%) with one of his best sliders of the season and a few solid changeups. It would have been nice if he could have provided more length, but after he couldn’t battle through less-than-ideal stuff very well in recent outings, this game was a step in the right direction. He also set the Rays’ single-season strikeout record in this game.
Unfortunately, the Rays offense couldn’t break through enough against Luis Severino, scoring on a Steven Souza Jr. RBI double in the sixth inning, but missing several other opportunities. The failed to score despite having first and second with nobody out in the second inning and second and third with one out in the fifth. They also couldn’t bring Souza home in that sixth. However, it all could have been fine had the Rays done better against a shaky Dellin Betances.
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Betances is an excellent reliever for the New York Yankees, but he was certainly off in this game. After entering the game with two outs in the seventh inning and getting ahead of Grady Sizemore 0-2, he lost Sizemore as he threw the next four pitches out of the zone. He threw threw just one strike each to Evan Longoria and Logan Forsythe as they both walked as well. Up came James Loney–who had been 3 for 3 in the game–hoping to take advantage, but suddenly Betances got himself together, throwing a fastball for a strike and two nasty breaking balls to strike him out. That was a freak thing, and you can say that it wasn’t the Rays’ fault. Betances giveth, and then he taketh away.
The eighth inning, though, was marred by an unquestionably bad decision by Nick Franklin. Souza singled and Betances made no effort to hold him on. On the 1-0 pitch to Franklin, Souza had second base stolen easily. But for some reason, Franklin had it in his head to bunt, and he would up popping it up to third base. Chase Headley made the catch, and with Souza on second base, it turned into an easy double play.
Franklin’s bunt didn’t made sense for several reasons. Firstly, the whole point of the bunt was to advance him to the farthest base possible. If Franklin wanted to bunt, why not wait one more pitch, let Souza steal second, and then bunt him to third? At that point, though, the bunt would have made less sense because Franklin could have also moved Souza to third on a groundball or flyball to the right side while also giving him a chance to crush a mistake pitch, as he did on Tuesday night.
More generally, though, it never makes any sense to bunt unless you are extremely certain that you will be successful. It is already bad enough that you are giving the opposing team an out–you better make sure that the out goes to good use. Franklin was clearly bunting on his own, and the fact that he was doing so in a huge spot despite the fact that he had never laid down a sacrifice bunt in his major league career or this season in the minors made no sense.
First and foremost, players need to internalize when it actually makes sense to bunt–no one should be bunting on his own. And beyond that, even if it is a bunting situation–which the eighth inning likely was not–you better be 95% confident that you can lay it down. The blunder capped a rough day for Franklin, who had struck out in his prior 3 at-bats. He went from hitting a big home run in the second game against the Yankees to having one of his worst games of the year.
Greg Bird punctuated the Yankees’ win with a ninth-inning homer off of Andrew Bellatti as New York beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1. Tomorrow, the Baltimore Orioles will come to town, with Matt Moore hoping to right himself after a rough second outing back as he goes up against Chris Tillman.