Seattle 2, D-Rays 0. We knew this was going to happen, but we might have been in denial. Since the Rays traded Mark Hendrickson, Tobey Hall, Joey Gathright, Aubrey Huff and Julio Lugo, we knew this team would struggle at times…Ok, ok…We knew this team would struggle a lot. However, what makes this difficult for us is that this team, that just got swept by the Mariners, is the same team that can split a 4-game series with the best team in baseball (Detroit) and win 2 of 3 against Boston. They are young and inexperienced (2nd youngest roster in the Majors), but the talent is there. Unfortunately, at this stage there is going to more frustrating games than games that remind us of the potential.
Last night James Shields pitched well enough to win, but received no offensive support. Shields went the distance striking out 6, allowing 5 hits, 1 walk and 2 runs. The Rays were down early, allowing a run after the first 3 batters. Shields then settled down to retire the next 8 batters before allowing a solo home run to Adrian Beltre to lead off the 4th inning. Shields then retired 14 of the final 16 batters he faced. Offensively, The D-Rays managed just 4 singles and nobody for the Rays reached third base. In the 7th and 8th the Rays were able to threaten. In each inning, Tampa had runners at 1st and 2nd with one out, but were unable to bring any runs home.
Just when we had left the last two series behind with a good feeling, along comes a team who had just been swept themselves and appeared to have just lost any hope to their season and the Rays get swept. The Rays were competitive in all 3 games, but this team needs to learn how to out themselves over the top. At least we get to look forward to having Scott Kazmir back on Friday night.
Speaking of competitive games in this series. We were unable to post about the middle game of this series and we would be remiss if we didn’t make a comment now about such a heart-breaking defeat. To recap: Ichiro lead off the bottom of the 10th inning in a 1-1 game with a double down the left field line. Joe Maddon then made his first mistake when he brought in Seth McClung. Maddon had to have expected that the Mariners were going to sacrifice Ichiro to third. And if he did expect that, he must have already known he was going to intentionally walk the next two batters (which he did). In that case, why not leave Shawn Camp in to pitch to the next three batters? Why bring in McClung at that point? After intentionally walking the next two batters, McClung had then thrown 8 straight pitches out of the strike zone. On top of that, McClung, a fastball pitcher, then had to face Richie Sexson, a fastball hitter. After the first pitch, a slider, was way out of the strike zone, everybody at the game…everybody listening to the game…everybody watching the game…knew the next pitch was going to be a fastball. More importantly, Sexson knew the next pitch was going to be a fastball. Next pitch? Fastball. Next pitch? Grand Slam. Next pitch? Game over. But that is not when the game was lost. We have not been very critical of Maddon this season. For the most part, we think he has called good games and has handled the players as well as can be expected, but Joe Maddon lost this game. He should not have brought in McClung when he did. His next mistake was the second intentional walk to Raul Ibanez. Why not pitch to Ibanez with the corners in and the middle infielders at double play depth. Why choose to face Sexson? That loss looked bad for McClung, but it was in no way his fault.