Finally the White Sox had a closer who could end a game with little fanfare. This time it was Matt Thornton. And although the Rays tried to make it more interesting in the bottom of the 9th, they came up one hit/wild pitch short.
C’est la vie.
This time it was not the Rays who mounted a big comeback late in the game. Tonight they got a taste of their own medicine from the Sox.
“Big Game” Let Down
James Shields deserved better. Once again, he turned in a gem of a performance only to have the offense fail to show up. Shields pitched 6 2/3 innings of 4-hit, 2-run baseball. He struck out 4 and had his changeup working well tonight.
However, as is the case in almost every Shields start, the offense was unable to give James more than 3 runs. He entered the game as one of the least-supported pitchers in the league, he left the game the same way.
In 9 of Shields’ 21 starts this year the Rays have score more than 3 runs. Less than half the time! In 6 of those 9 games the Rays have won and in 4 of those 6 wins the W has gone to Shields.
He has alot to complain about.
A pitcher who is 6-6 with a sub-4.00 ERA getting run support like that might need special help to deal with those issues. Easily Shields could be a 10-game winnner. Instead his record stands at .500.
A Craptastic 7th Inning
The Rays entered the 7th with a 3-1 lead. They left it down 4-3. What happened? Tough to imagine.
The Rays used 5 pitchers total in the frame, 4 of them in relief of Shields. Three of those 5 pitchers failed to record an out! Yep, you read that right.
THREE GUYS ENTERED THE GAME IN THAT INNING AND DID NOT GET A GUY OUT.
Shields got the first two outs of the inning. Then reliable Randy Choate entered and gave up a fluke hit that All-Star SS Jason Bartlett made worse by throwing the ball into the stands. That put runners at the corners with 2 outs.
No problem, right? Wrong.
Chad Bradford entered the game. He felt a twinge in his back and had to be removed. That brought on Dan Wheeler.
“Wheels” for short.
Wheels got two quick strikes on free-swinging Alexei Ramirez. Then Dan threw strike three on the outside corner. Only problem was the umpire didn’t call it. The Rays dugout was not happy about it and clearly Wheels was rattled.
Next pitch was lined into center.
Right at BJ Upton.
Right over BJ Upton and to the wall.
It was a catchable fly, but BJ turned it into a game-tying triple. Jermaine Dye blooped a single into center to give the Sox the lead and that was how it ended.
This Was Not Raysball
The Rays did not play their brand of baseball tonight. Among the things they did poorly:
1—The Rays did not hit. The offense mustered 8 hits and scored only 3 runs. Their top hitters let them down all night, culminating on a weak pop out by Evan Longoria to end the game. Pat Burrell did hit a home run, but it was not enough.
2—The Rays did not pitch. The bullpen didn’t anyway. Any time you have to use 4 pitchers to get 1 out, there is a problem.
3—The Rays did not play defense. Bartlett’s poor throw paired with Upton’s misplay spelled doom for the Rays. They gave the Sox 5 outs in a crucial inning–something you cannot do to good teams.
The Rays will need to regroup to figure out how to score runs and get outs. Every game on this road trip has been decided by 1 or 2 runs. That says that our guys aren’t scoring runs and that it is imperative they stop other teams from scoring them. Especially late in the game.
The Rays will throw Scott Kazmir at the Sox’ Mark Buehrle. Both pitchers have had some recent success, so it is anybody’s game.
One thing is for sure. The Rays will not get the W tomorrow if they fail to show up as they did tonight.
And for a team that is currently 5 1/2 out of first place in the tough AL East, that is unacceptable.