The Rays won a marathon game last night, beating the Mariners in 14 innings courtesy of Ben Zobrist's walkoff hit (sorry we couldn't get a recap up on the site). Tonight was a different story, as the Rays' bats had nothing going for them—with the exception of Jeff Keppinger and Jose Lobaton—and the only run scored was because of an error.
Alex Cobb got roughed up immediately when Michael Saunders singled home Casper Wells and former Rays catcher John Jaso (who went 2-3 with a run scored tonight) in the first inning.
A scary moment occured when Ichiro Suziki came up to bat in the third, hitting a hard grounder right back to the mound, which nailed Cobb in the shin which resulted in a relatively loud thud. Cobb did not look to be injured as the play progressed, and he himself made a terrific play to get Carlos Peguero out at home plate, saving a possible third run. He immediately laid face-first in the turf after the play was made, and trainers came on the field to further examine the apparent injury; a contusion to the right leg (shin), and Cobb was out of the game.
As has been the case throughout the season, the bullpen answered the call to shut down the Mariners offense. Called up from the minors before Saturday's game, relief pitcher Cesar Ramos came in and pitched four scoreless innings, fanning six hitters. Joel Peralta came in in the 8th to keep the Rays within one run and did so with flair, striking out the side in order.
Unfortunately for the 'pen, the bats just weren't there tonight: if you take away Keppinger and Lobaton's hits, the rest of the lineup only managed to get just two hits. They had their share of scoring opportunities in the game, but failed to convert multiple times.
This has been a problem all year and is further exemplified by the fact that the Rays are ranked 28th in team batting average with .233, and are also ranked 26th in the league with a .376 slugging percentage; obviously, these aren't numbers to write home about, but the team has been pulling wins out regardless of these statistics. Still though, you'd like to see a lineup that averages .250, especially when that lineup is in the toughest division in baseball.
With the trade deadline looming, the Rays (for the third year in a row) are shopping James Shields around, mainly due to the fact that he is set to be paid 9 million next season; a small market team like the Rays obviously can't afford to spend a decent chunk of their salary cap on a pitcher who's pretty good trade bait currently. Pay close attention to the Shields rumors, especially since it could result in the Rays acquiring a bat that's a decent replacement for Evan Longoria. Some links will be below in the Rays News and Notes.
Fortunately for the Rays, he Yankees and Red Sox both lost, so they stay 8.5 games back of first and a game up on Boston. The Rays are now 1.5 games out of a playoff spot though.
Notables from tonight's game:
J. Keppinger(TAM): 3-4
J. Lobaton(TAM): 2-4
C. Ramos(TAM): 4 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 6 K
Rays News and Notes:
- A ridiculous rumor swirled yesterday as ESPN's Jim Bowden tweeted "Rumors swirling around Angels stadium of a Richards, Hellweg,Kendrick +package deal for Shields&Zobrist...conversation only at this point." The Rays just laughed this one off, and Maddon said that he and Andrew Friedman "had a good guffaw over it. Almost a chortle."
- As stupid as that particular rumor was, the Angels do in fact have interest in Shields (according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com). The Tigers are also interested, and the two teams had scouts attending Friday night's game along with scouts from five other teams.
- Very bad news: Luke Scott was put back on the DL with a mild oblique strain Saturday. It's not the same injury that made him miss time earlier in the month though. Cesar Ramos was called up to replace him on the roster, and could likely be called back down today after pitching four innings.
- Alex Cobb is expected to make his next start, as x-rays did not reveal any fractures in his shin.
- Jeff Niemann (broken fibula) threw a 25-pitch bullpen session and felt great afterwards. He could return sometime in late August.
- The Rays try to take two out of three from Seattle Sunday on Star Wars Day at the Trop. Matt Moore (6-6, 4.39) will take the mound against Blake Beavan (4-6, 6.06); first pitch 1:40.