In what was possibly – no, definitely – the most painful game that I’ve watched this season, the Rays lost to the Indians Tuesday night 5-4. There are a lot of reasons why the Rays lost the game and plenty of reasons why they could have won, but it really comes down to this one thing: the Rays allowed way too many baserunners. Allowing 10 hits isn’t that big a deal, but 11 walks? By the time the game reached the ninth inning, I was ready to jump through my computer and shake some sense into the next person that walked a batter. Sadly, that would have been Farnsworth, and his walk lost the Rays the game.
But I’m getting way ahead of myself: this story begins with a shell of a pitcher called Andy Sonnanstine. Andy is a fun shell who keeps us entertained with his ping-pong skills, outfield wall art, and YouTube videos, and he used to be a viable major league pitcher. Back in 2008 he was a very solid starter for the Rays (4.38 ERA, 3.91 FIP), and we all figured he’d translate well to the bullpen. He’d likely gain a couple miles an hour on his fastball, and maybe he’d get a few more whiffs as a result. But no, Andy instead started walking more batters, striking out fewer hitters, and allowing more homeruns. Not a great combination, but he was still a decent mop-up man at least.
But now I barely recognize Sonnanstine on the mound. His impeccable control is gone, and he walked five batters last night in only 3.1 IP, throwing only 48% strikes. His velocity peaked near 87 MPH on occasion, but his fastball hovered around 85 MPH for the majority of the evening. He got hit hard, as Grady Sizemore crushed a long homerun off him in the first inning and other batters came dangerously close (most notably, Travis Hafner in the third inning). He threw his cutter over 70% of the time, which is utterly baffling as Sonny doesn’t have good enough stuff to survive by throwing any pitch 70% of the time – nonetheless his cutter. He was a shell of his former self, and though it makes me sad to say it, I’m beginning to think he may never regain his old form.
Despite allowing nine baserunners in a little over three innings, Sonny somehow managed to escape with only two runs allowed (both on long solo homeruns). The bullpen had mixed results after he left: Cesar Ramos escaped a jam in the fourth inning and cruised through the fifth inning, but then Brandon Gomes quickly loaded the bases in the sixth inning with a single and two walks. Juan Cruz entered the game and got out of the inning eventually, but not before he allowed two runs to score on a single and passed ball. Cruz also got somewhat lucky: the first out he recorded was on a hard comebacker to the mound that he hit with his glove in self-defense, which then bounced within reach so he could record an out at the plate.
Joel Peralta entered the game next, getting out of a two on, one out situation in the seventh inning and then cruising through the eighth inning. With an already depleted bullpen and a tied game, though, Maddon decided to run Peralta out there again to start the ninth. A walk, a single, and an intentional walk later and Kyle Farnsworth was entering the game to try and work a miracle. It looked for a second like he nearly would, as he recorded the first out of the inning when Brignac made an impressive stop on a groundball and got the runner at the plate, but Farnsworth ended up walking the next batter after getting up 0-2 in the count. Game, set, match.
I told you it was painful.
- So I’m torn: while it appears the whole “the bullpen is overperforming” bit is true and having seven arms was a good thing last night, I still would have liked to have Brandon Guyer on the bench for that game. In the top of the seventh inning, the Rays were down by two runs, but Sean Rodriguez led off the inning with a double. The Indians then brought in their lefty specialist to face Dan Johnson, John Jaso, and Sam Fuld – a perfect situation to pinch hit. While Maddon did substitute Shoppach for Jaso (and Shop got a hit that drove in a run), he couldn’t do much else due to the current status of his bench. Sigh.
- Sam Fuld went 0-5 and is now batting .238. Please Maddon, give him a day off or drop him down from the leadoff spot. He needs a break.
- The Rays are still alive, though, as David Price and James Shields will be starting for them over the next two days. Hopefully they’ll work deep into the game and allow our bullpen to rest up some; otherwise I bet we’ll be seeing our next glance at Rob Delaney sometime soon.