Between this, the Giants-Reds game and my well-known yet uncontrollable pitching fetish, I am really not liking living in the eastern time zone today. If NBC would act on my long-standing request to set me up in a nice little flat in that interwar Pacific Heights co-op I would have been awake for both of these, dammit.
Anyway: Felix Hernandez was wicked good last night, throwing his fifth career shutout and striking out 13. He allowed five singles and walked a dude, but that was about it.
The Sox got good pitching too, though, with Franklin Morales allowing only three hits in his seven inning, and it was 0-0 entering the ninth. The Red Sox had a chance to draw first blood that inning, putting runners on first and second with one out. But then Adrian Gonzalez flied out and Will “1 for 15 since the Youkilis trade” Middlebrooks popped out. Sorry, but you know people are thinkin’ it.
The M’s won it in the bottom of the inning when John Jaso singled to right field to score Casper Wells from second base. Cody Ross actually had Wells dead to rights on the throw — it beat him to the plate — but Jarrod Saltalamacchia couldn’t keep a handle on it.
I guess on a night where Felix Hernandez pitched so brilliantly, the fates couldn’t keep the W from him.
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.