Since an 11-game winning streak that stretched from June 11-23, the Jays have lost 15 of 22 games, including their first two games coming out of the All-Star break. They lost to the Rays 4-3 this afternoon behind an adequate start by lefty Mark Buehrle, continuing to lose ground in the hyper-competitive AL East. Now at 45-51, the Jays are 13 games out of first place.
Today’s loss prompted a bit of unexpected honesty from Buehrle, who spoke to the media after the game. Via MLB.com’s Chris Toman:
Buehrle is part of the problem, however. Today’s start bumped his ERA down to 4.83, the seventh-worst mark in the American League among starters with enough innings to qualify for the ERA title. He is 34 years old and still owed $37 million over the next two seasons, which is emblematic of the Jays right now — they already have over $110 million in player salary committed for the 2014 season. But at least these same Jays will be rated properly next year.
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.