Matthew wrote about it first last night, but I just got done watching the replay of the Ubaldo Jiminez no-hitter, and I have to say that it’s been a long time since I’ve seen someone pitch with that kind of gas in his tank. He struggled a bit early walking people, but it seemed like the reason for it was he just had so much power and velocity and so much action on his fastball that he couldn’t fully harness it.
After a couple of innings he tired ever so slightly, settled in at an, um, reasonable 97-98 miles per hour, and he was much better able to control the extra giddy-up. By the time the sixth and seventh innings rolled around the Braves had no better shot at
hitting the ball than you or I would have had. I loved Jiminez before, but after last night’s performance the guy is approaching man-crush territory. I mean, he was no-hitting my team, and all I could think was how awesome it was.
I was also thinking that the Braves get no-hit a lot because watching them flail certainly felt familiar. Turns out, though, that it’s only happened twice since I was converted to their cause in the mid 80s: last night and Randy Johnson’s perfect game in 2004 (there were 11 other occasions before the 1980s). I guess the feeling was just a function of seeing a lot of bad offensive nights against guys throwing serious heat, which is an occupational hazard for Bobby Cox teams.
The Rays started Sergio Romo on back-to-back days and if that sounds weird to you, you’re not alone. Romo, of course, was the star closer for the Giants for a while, helping them win the World Series in 2012 and ’14. He’s been a full-time reliever dating back to 2006, when he was at Single-A.
In an effort to prevent lefty Ryan Yarbrough from facing the righty-heavy top of the Angels’ lineup (Zack Cozart, Mike Trout, Justin Upton), Romo started Saturday’s game, pitching the first inning before giving way to Yarbrough in the second. Romo struck out the side, in fact. The Rays went on to win 5-3.
The Rays did it again on Sunday afternoon, starting Romo. This time, he got four outs before giving way to Matt Andriese. Romo walked two without giving up a hit while striking out three. The Angels managed to win 5-2 however.
Despite Sunday’s win, Cozart wasn’t a happy camper with the way the Rays used Romo. Via Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, Cozart said, “It was weird … It’s bad for baseball, in my opinion … It’s spring training. That’s the best way to explain it.”
It’s difficult to see merit in Cozart’s argument. It’s not like the Rays were making excessive amounts of pitching changes; they used five on Saturday and four on Sunday. The games lasted three hours and three hours, 15 minutes, respectively. The average game time is exactly three hours so far this season. I’m having trouble wondering how else Cozart might mean the strategy is bad for baseball.
It seems like the real issue is that Cozart is afraid of the sport changing around him. The Rays, like most small market teams, have to find their edges in slight ways. The Rays aren’t doing this blindly; the strategy makes sense based on their opponents’ starting lineup. The idea of valuing on-base percentage was scoffed at. Shifting was scoffed at and now every team employs them to some degree. Who knows if starting a reliever for the first three or four outs will become a trend, but it’s shortsighted to write it off at first glance.