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And That Happened: Sunday’s scores and highlights


Here are the scores. Here are the highlights:

Red Sox 7, Tigers 5: Blowing a one-run lead is not a mortal sin, but the Tigers had leads of 1-0, 2-1, 3-2, and 4-3 and blew ’em all. That seems sort of excessive. Especially given that the 4-3 lead was blown via a four-run eighth inning. On Friday I wrote an ode to the Tigers’ bullpen. It’s still applicable.

Rays 7, Blue Jays 2: There was some yelling between Troy Tulowitzki and Steven Souza following Souza’s slide into second base on a double play in the second inning. The benches cleared, but nothing happened. As for the slide: eh. It was less a hard slide than just a poor slide in my view. It also seems like Souza assumed that Tulo was not going to try to apply a tag because he didn’t realize that Justin Smoak got the force at first before the throw. It ended up like a couple of cats who surprise each other by being face-to-face when turning a corner and end up with fluffy tails and arched backs:

Later in the game Souza hit a three-run jack. The Rays took three of four from Toronto. The Jays are now 1-5. Ouch. And ouch.

Yankees 7, Orioles 3: New York was down 3-0 heading into the sixth when Ronald Torreyes hit a two-run triple. In the eighth Aaron Judge tied it with a solo homer and in the ninth Starlin Castro hit an RBI single to put New York ahead. The Yankees would add three insurance runs in the ninth as well and avoid the sweep. Matt Holliday had five plate appearances but no at bats. Dude walked five times.

Phillies 4, Nationals 3: Philly was on its way to comfy win until the ninth when closer Jeanmar Gomez gave up a three-run homer to Ryan Zimmerman, tying the game. The Nats’ Koda Glover blew a save himself, however, when he walked leadoff hitter Daniel Nava and then allowed two singles, the second of which was a walkoff RBI from Cesar Hernandez. Jeremy Hellickson would’ve been the winner following five innings in which he allowed one hit and no runs. He also would’ve pitched another couple of innings had he not gotten a cramp in his arm.

Pirates 6, Braves 5: A two-run walkoff homer for Starling Marte in the 10th– when the Pirates were down by one — ended an eventful day for the Pirates’ center fielder. Earlier in the game he was picked off twice. Then, in the eighth inning, he hit a single that resulted in a run as Pittsburgh mounted the comeback from two runs down that would send the game to extras. Freddie Freeman hit two homers for Atlanta. Here’s a fun photo of him.

Twins 4, White Sox 1: Break up the Twins. They started last year by dropping their first nine games. They’ve begun this year by winning five of their first six. This one came via six shutout innings from Ervin Santana and homers from Jorge Polanco and Miguel Sano. Sano is 7-for-20 with two doubles, a triple, two homers, eight RBI and four walks to start the season. That’s .350/.458/.850 to you and me.

Cubs 7, Brewers 4: The Cubs had a 5-0 lead before the Brewers batted in the second inning and the lead would hold up. The five runs came via an Addison Russel double and a Jason Heyward triple. Heyward would add an RBI single later in the contest to finish 2-for-5 with three RBI on the day. Jake Arrieta struck out ten in seven innings of work. Kyle Schwarber and Ben Zobrist homered.

Astros 5, Royals 4: El oso blanco que camina. Houston wins on a walkoff walk to Evan Gattis in the 12th. Royals reliever Matt Strahm walked three men that inning, actually, one of them intentionally. The Royals had a 3-1 lead in the seventh but Travis Wood walked Gattis, natch, and then gave up a two-run homer to Marwin Gonzalez. Remember when the Royals had a bullpen?

Reds 8, Cardinals 0: Cincinnati was up 2-0 on Carlos Martinez entering the sixth inning before things melted down for the Cardinals’ ace. Some of it was because his defense let him down, as the Cards committed three error that inning, two of which came from Jhonny Peralta on the same play. Of course, Martinez himself put two men on to lead things off the frame via a walk and a hit by pitch so he was not blameless. He ended the day having given up six runs on six hits with five of them earned. Not that it mattered given that Scott Feldman shut St. Louis out for six innings and the pen shut ’em out for three.

Rangers 8, Athletics 1Joey, Joey! King of the streets, child of clay. Joey, Joey! Soon you’ll lose your job to Adrian Beltre!

That’s Dylan for “Joey Gallo hit a three-run homer and singled in two more as the Rangers demolished the A’s.”

Dodgers 10, Rockies 6: Conversation with my better half over dinner last night:

Me: We should go to a ballpark we haven’t been to yet sometime this season. Weekend trip.

Her: Yeah. We haven’t been to Coors Field. It’s supposed to be great and I want to go to Denver anyway. Never been.

Me: Yeah, good idea.

*Craig sees that the the Rockies and Dodgers played a nearly four-hour-long nine inning game with 16 runs 24 hits, nine pitchers, seven walks and three errors*

Me: Neither of us have been to Tropicana Field yet either. Maybe we should go to Tropicana Field.

Angels 10, Mariners 9: Seattle was up 8-1 in the seventh inning and 9-3 heading into the bottom of the ninth only to see the Angels rally for seven runs and a wild walkoff win. Well, they didn’t just see it. They participated, issuing four walks to help the rally along. Apart from the walks, Albert Pujols homered to start the rally and then came up again and hit a two-run single to tie it. In between Yunel Escobar doubled in two himself. Cliff Pennington knocked in the game-winning run with an RBI single scoring Mike Trout. The relievers responsible for this atrocity will remain nameless, but their names rhyme with “Dacey Kline” and “Nedwin Ziaz.”

Diamondbacks 3, Indians 2: Patrick Corbin tossed six shutout innings and Chris Owings went 3-for-4 with a homer. He also scored a run on an error after stealing third base. The Diamondbacks are 6-1, folks.

Giants 5, Padres 3: The Giants jumped out to a 5-0 lead by the third inning thanks in part to back-to-back jacks from Hunter Pence and Buster Posey. Johnny Cueto allowed two runs over seven and struck out seven.

Mets 5, Marlins 2: Noah Syndergaard got an extra day’s rest due to a blister suffered on Opening Day. The extra day must’ve done the trick as he allowed only one earned run and struck out nine over seven innings.

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.