And That Happened: Tuesday’s scores and highlights


Yankees 4, Mariners 1: And then there were 17.  CC Sabathia carried a perfecto into the seventh — broken up right after he came back following a rain delay — and struck out 14.  The M’s struck out 18 times in all. But then again, they’re horrifyingly bad, so that’s understandable.

Braves 4, Pirates 3: The game ends in the 19th on one of the worst calls I’ve ever seen in a major league baseball game. Jerry Meals must have really, really wanted to get back to his hotel room.  Just inexcusable.  Instant. Replay. Now.

Mets 8, Reds 6: Johnny Cueto’s ERA stays sparkling thanks to all six of the runs he gave up being unearned, but it’s not like he pitched well.  The Mets had to get hits and stuff after those errors, and Cueto was happy to oblige. Meanwhile, Jon Niese gave up five runs in five innings and got the win. Baseball is a funny game.

Marlins 11, Nationals 2: HBT’s Macondo correspondent, Old Gator, wired in his report from this one last night right after it ended:

Just a heads-up about something wonderful that occurred during the Feesh game tonight.  Not just that they climbed over the imploding Gnats. Much better. A praying mantis flew into the visitor’s dugout during the late innings and landed on Clay Hensley’s cap, and he carried it around for awhile as his teammates laughed their asses off and he had no idea why. However, as soon as the mantis arrived, the Feesh exploded for five more runs. Eventually the mantis took up a position on the dugout rail – some priceless shots on TV of the ballplayers leaning on the rail with the mantis between them, watching the game – and then the best part: as the inning ended, Logan Morrison swung around to put his cap on, the mantis freaked and flew at him and landed on his back, and LoMo totally freaked out and was jumping up and down and bending and sashaying but the mantis stayed on his back. Someone took it off and put it back on the railing. Some viewer emailed the announcing crew and named it “Mickey Mantis.” It got a lot of play from the announcers who christened it the Mantis Game.

I’m pretty sure this is how the movie “The Fish that Saved Pittsburgh” started. Except somewhat differently.

Phillies 7, Giants 2: Philly made short work of replacement starter Barry Zito, who filled in for the scratched Tim Lincecum.  Really short work, as in this game was over in two hours and eight minutes. Zito wasn’t around for all of it, though, as he was knocked out after giving up six runs in seven innings. Vance Worley, on the other hand, looked like an ace (CG, 3 H, 2 ER), though I think the Giants’ bats had a lot to do with that. Inside the park homer for Chase Utley.

Angels 2, Indians 1: Jered Weaver and Josh Tomlin each had strong starts. Each only gave up one big hit too. Except that the one Tomlin gave up — a double to Mark Trumbo — happened with two guys on base and the one Weaver gave up — a homer to Matt LaPorta — came with the bases empty. The Tribe had a chance in the ninth, getting two men on with no one out against Jordan Walden, but couldn’t push a run across.

Orioles 12, Blue Jays 2: J.J. Hardy had two homers, Derrek Lee drove in five and the O’s had no problems with the Jays.  The Jays probably had some problems with the O’s, however, given that Jose Bautista had to leave the game after getting beaned.

Cardinals 3, Astros 1: A two-run homer for Pujols in the first was all the Cards would end up needing thanks to a solid effort by Jake Westbrook.

Brewers 3, Cubs 2: All of the scoring went down in the first inning so the game was either wonderfully front-loaded or else had eight wasted innings, depending on whether you’re an optimist or a pessimist. Or if you’re just one of those fascists who only cares about scoring. And actually …

Red Sox 13, Royals 9: … If you’re one of those fascists who only cares about scoring, this was the game for you.  I would think that sitting through this kind of game would be pretty brutal, however.

Twins 9, Rangers 8: Carl Pavano gave up all eight of those runs to Texas, who took the lead into the ninth. Neftali Feliz couldn’t seal the deal, however, allowing a single, a double and watching a run score on an Elvis Andrus error to tie it. Then Joe Mauer pinch hit for Drew Butera and hit a go-ahead RBI double. Nice way to shake off Monday night’s shellacking.

Dodgers 3, Rockies 2: Four wins in a row for the Dodgers and they do it on a night when Clayton Kershaw had nothing approaching his best stuff.

Diamondbacks 6, Padres 1: Joe Saunders pitched eight and two-thirds innings of a shutout, but allowed a homer to Jesus Guzman with two outs in the ninth. He still finished the Padres off with only 99 pitches.

Athletics 6, Rays 1: The Rays have lost 10 of 14 and the A’s continue their nice little offensive resurgence. Against David Price of all people.

Tigers 5, White Sox 4: New acquisition Wilson Betemit had an RBI single in the eighth and Justin Verlander did his usual thing, throwing eleventy billion pitches and winning, although he wasn’t the sharpest we’ve ever seen him.

2018 Preview: Tampa Bay Rays

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2018 season. Next up: The Tampa Bay Rays.

A lot of teams start one season looking very different than they did at the end of the previous season. Usually you can see those changes coming as early as August or September. What the Rays look like now, on the eve of the 2018 regular season, however, is very different than the sort of change we assumed as recently as the Winter Meetings.

We knew they’d let Alex Cobb walk in free agency and they did. But we did not expect them to trade Evan Longoria, to designate Corey Dickerson for assignment coming off an All-Star year, to trade 30-homer outfielder Steven Souza, or to trade Jake Odorizzi as spring training was getting underway as opposed to some time later when, perhaps, he could bring more value. The baseball justifications for some of these trades were better than they were for others, but the way they were done and the timing of it all cast a pall on the offseason, appearing as they did to be payroll slashing moves. The certainly didn’t impress the MLBPA, which filed a grievance against Tampa Bay last month, accusing them of pocketing revenue sharing money instead of trying to make the team better.

None of that played well, but if you take a couple of steps back, it’s possible to defend it all by realizing that even with all of those guys, the Rays were an 80-win team last year and would not have had a huge amount of upside this year if they had kept it all together. I’ll leave it to prospect experts, number crunchers to decide whether the Rays did a good job of tearing it down — and I think they could’ve done better than they did with stopgap measures until their minor league talent matures — but it’s at least understandable that they wanted to tear it down and start anew.

Until the fruits of those deals — and the fruits of a minor league system which has been pretty darn good in recent years — are ripe, though, the big league Rays are going to have a lot of question marks.

On offense the biggest question mark is health and durability. Here’s a pretty plausible Opening Day lineup Kevin Cash may send out there:

DH Denard Span
3B Matt Duffy
CF Kevin Kiermaier
RF Carlos Gomez
2B Brad Miller
C Wilson Ramos
1B C.J. Cron
SS Adeiny Hechavarria
LF Mallex Smith

Not terrible, but not durable or, in some cases, consistent. Kiermaier has had some freak injuries, but the nature of his play — hard, fast and diving for stuff — makes that a hazard and, as such, he’s really only played in one full season. Matt Duffy missed all of last year and, let’s face it, has never struck fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers. Wilson Ramos knows the disabled list like few others. Meanwhile, Carlos Gomez, C.J. Cron and Brad Miller have had fairly substantial swings in production across recent and within recent seasons. Adeiny Hechavarria and Mallex Smith are not serious offensive threats.

It’s easy to squint and to imagine Span, Kiermaier, Ramos, Gomez and maybe Cron forming the nucleus of a respectable attack, but it’s also easy to see half of that lineup playing in only, like, 107 games, Cash penciling in dudes like Jesus Sucre and Daniel Robertson a lot or putting Denard Span out in the outfield more than he should to cover for whoever. The Rays featured the 14th-best offense in the AL in 2017. I can see a case for it improving a tad, but not by much, and if the injury fairy flies through the window, this could be really bad.

On the upside, most of these guys can pick it pretty well, so the defense should be pretty decent and potentially even superior. The pitching is good on paper too, but there is gonna be some weirdness afoot if Cash sticks with the plan he outlined earlier this month.

Even with the departure of Cobb and Odorizzi — and even with the season-ending surgery to top prospect Brent Honeywell — the Rays have five good starters in Chris Archer, Nate Eovaldi, Blake Snell, Jake Faria and Matt Andriese. Except they’re not going to use all five starters in their rotation. They’re going to go with a four-man rotation and a bullpen game every fifth day. At present it appears that Andriese, who started 17 games last year, is the odd man out and will be part of the all-hands-on-deck crew on day 5, whenever that comes up.

Early on this should not make a difference. There are a lot of off days in the first month of the season, so the need for that bullpen day will be pretty limited. One wonders, though, what this will do to their effectiveness and durability as the temperature rises and the season wears on. Yes, “bullpenning” got a lot of press in the postseason, but the idea that a bullpen can stay fresh with such a high-level of use for 5-6 months with few days off is a questionable one. That’s especially the case when three of the Rays’ four starters — Eovaldi, Faria and Snell — pitched limited innings last year and can’t be expected to go six or seven innings per start in 2018 (who can anymore?). Maybe Archer is a horse, but the rest of your games you’re going to need three relievers to finish things up based on how life works these days. Maybe more.

In light of that, is the bullpen going to be able to handle nine innings once every five days? Color me dubious. I think they’ll be fried by July. At least if they truly do use that fifth day as a true bullpen day and don’t, say, just call up a new fifth starter every week and a half and use that slot to audition organizational depth before ultimately just handing it over to Andriese. Indeed, now that I’m thinking about it, I’d wager that the fifth day plan morphs into that pretty quickly and that we’ll be smiling at the notion of a true bullpen day by the All-Star break.

As for the arms in that bullpen, Alex Colome is the closer, mostly because the Rays couldn’t find anyone to deal him to this past offseason. In support are old hands Daniel Hudson and Sergio Romo, neither of whom have been relief aces in recent years, even if Romo did do well for the Rays after coming over late last season. Dan Jennings, Jose Alvarado, Ryne Stanek and a cast of similarly anonymous guys will take the ball a lot. Even Johnny Venters, who had three Tommy John surgeries, could be in the mix at some point. The cast will be as big as “Love Actually.” Whether they are as annoying depends on who you’re rooting for.

Where does that leave the Rays? It leaves them with some serious dice rolling in the lineup, some good defense, some respectable pitching but a potentially odd and possibly detrimental approach to its deployment. It leaves them with a still very good farm system and a roster that looks really nice for 2020. I think it leaves them in some pretty serious trouble for 2018, though, especially in a division as top heavy as the AL East.

As far as on-the-fly rebuilds go, it’s not a bad one, but it’s still one that’s gonna leave the Rays in the low-80s win-wise at best, with some pretty serious potential downside.

Prediction: Fourth Place, AL East.