Brandon Morrow is tough for the Rays to beat even on the best of occasions, and last night’s game went sour for the Rays right from the start. By the end of the first inning, it became apparent that Jeff Niemann did not have his best stuff with him. Niemann had put together a strong seven inning outing his last time out, leading many to hope that his troubles were behind him, but last night he suffered from many of the same old problems: he was leaving balls up in the zone, missing his locations, and his velocity was topping out around 90 MPH. The Blue Jays got two runs in the first inning off a Adam Lind homerun, and they never looked back.
Niemann continued to struggle over the course of the night, allowing a total of six hits in four innings while striking out none. His velocity continued to sink as the game went on, and by the time he left after the fourth inning, he was topping out at 86 MPH. That velocity decrease led many to believe Niemann was injured, and the Rays did announce later in the game that Niemann left with a sore back. He will be evaluated today, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he hit the DL after his string of early season problems.
While Brandon Morrow only struck out seven Rays this time out – and allowed nine baserunners during six innings – the Rays still couldn’t get much going on offense. They threatened to score many times, but stranded runners or got victimized by good defensive work by the Blue Jays. Notably, Johnny Damon got thrown out at the plate in the fourth inning after the ball got stuck under the padding on the left field wall, as catcher Jose Molina made a fantastic block of the plate. It just wasn’t the Rays’ night.
The umpires didn’t help either. Joe Maddon and BJ Upton both got thrown out of the game for arguing calls with the umpires, but both of them had justifiable grounds for being annoyed. Upton was arguing with the home plate umpire over the strike zone all night, and ended up getting very annoyed after being called out on a pitch far off plate in the ninth inning. And Joe Maddon was tossed for arguing over a call that the umpires had reversed: they’d originally called Sam Fuld safe on a bang-bang play at first base (which replays showed was the correct call), but then the home plate umpire overruled the ruling of the first base ump to call Fuld out. Maddon was understandably furious, and got ejected for the second time this year.