Someone did in fact flirt with a no-no in the Bronx tonight, but it wasn’t Johan Santana after he threw 134 pitches last week in the first no-hitter in Mets history. Hiroki Kuroda held the Mets hitless for 5 2/3 innings Friday in the Yankees’ 9-1 victory.
Santana, who had thrown back-to-back shutouts against the Padres and Cardinals, was lit up for six runs in five innings in this one. He surrendered four homers, matching his total for the season entering the night.
Robinson Cano hit two of the four homers, giving him 11 on the season. Cano, Nick Swisher and Andruw Jones went back-to-back-to-back off Santana with two outs in the third inning.
Still, it was Kuroda who shined brightest in this one, facing the minimum for 5 2/3 before Omar Quintanilla doubled into the left-center gap. It was the only hit he allowed on the night before a bruised foot forced him to depart after the seventh.
As for Santana, he had his typical velocity tonight after getting a couple of extra days of rest, but not his location, as he left too many pitches up in the strike zone. He’s now 3-3 with a 2.96 ERA in 12 starts this season.
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.