It’s June 10 and the National League East-leading Nationals are showing no signs of a potential fade.
Gio Gonzalez allowed just three hits over 6 1/3 innings of two-run ball and first baseman Adam LaRoche hit his 10th home run of the season on Saturday afternoon as Washington rolled to its second consecutive victory over the Red Sox.
Gio now boasts a lights-out 2.35 ERA, 1.00 WHIP and 89/30 K/BB ratio in 72 2/3 innings this year.
The Nats are 10-2 in games that Gonzalez has started and will enter Sunday’s series finale at Fenway Park with a one-game lead over the Braves in what might be baseball’s most competitive division.
Your Saturday box scores:
Nationals 4, Red Sox 2
Cubs 3, Twins 11
Phillies 4, Orioles 6 (12 innings)
Blue Jays 2, Braves 5
Rangers 2, Giants 5
Astros 1, White Sox 10
Padres 5, Brewers 2
Tigers 3, Reds 2
Angels 11, Rockies 5
Mets 2, Yankees 4
Dodgers 8, Mariners 3
Royals 3, Pirates 5
Indians 0, Cardinals 2
Rays 13, Marlins 4
Athletics 3, Diamondbacks 8
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.