Tampa Bay jumped out to a 2-0 lead in Kansas City last night only to see it disappear within twelve pitches in the bottom of the third inning en route to an 8-2 loss at the hands of the Royals.
Behind an RBI sacrifice fly from Hideki Matsui and a Brooks Conrad home run, rookie Chris Archer took a lead into the bottom of the third. Within a dozen pitches, the Royals put together a single by Jarrod Dyson, a run-scoring double from Alcides Escobar, an error on a ball hit by Alex Gordon and a home run by Yuniesky Betancourt to fashion a 4-2 lead.
The Royals got seven strong innings from starter Bruce Chen who allowed just one earned run over seven innings to go with five strikeouts and a single walk. Kansas City added four more runs in the bottom of the eighth to go along with a pair of shut-down innings from Aaron Crow and Francisley Bueno. In all, Royals’ pitchers allowed only six hits and a single walk to the Rays while striking out seven.
The Rays will send rookie southpaw Matt Moore to the hill in an attempt to take a single win in the three-game set in Kansas City. Moore is 3-0 in his last four starts, while allowing only seven earned runs over that stretch.
The Royals will counter with Everett Teaford, a lefty with an 0-1 record and 5.73 earned run average. This will be Teaford’s second start of the season.
At 40-34, the banged-up Rays sit 5.5 games behind the first-place Yankees and just two games ahead of last-place Toronto in the American League East.
With Evan Longoria and last year’s closer Kyle Farnsworth still on the disabled list, the Rays are expecting Jeremy Hellickson back on the bump for a start against the Tigers this weekend. Farnsworth is being moved up to AAA Durham to continue his rehab after being rained out twice in Class A Charlotte.
Tampa Bay has struggled lately, going 4-6 over the last ten games. During that time, the Rays have scored more than three runs on just three occasions, one of those being a 7-6 loss to Philly. Here’s where the Rays stand in some major offensive categories:
• MLB ranks team hitting by batting average, and Tampa Bay ranks 27th in baseball and more importantly 5th in the American League East, with an average of .234. I know B.A. is not the best stat to use when ranking offenses, but it is a part of the puzzle.
• On-base percentage-OBP: .317, 16th in baseball, tied with Toronto for third in the A.L. East.
• On-base percentage plus slugging – OPS: 24th in baseball, 5th in the A.L. East.
• Runs scored: When it comes to offensive stats, runs scored is what it’s ultimately all about. 313 RS, 16th in baseball, 4th in the A.L. East.
• Strikeouts: 10th most strikeouts in baseball, 4th most in the A.L. East.
Defensively, the Rays rank last in the major leagues. Their 64 errors are the most in baseball, and with only nine runners thrown out (10.5%) in sixty attempts, they rank near the bottom in all of baseball. Last season, Tampa Bay only had 73 errors, and in what was considered a weakness, their catchers threw out 33/137 attempted base stealers, a rate of 24.1% caught stealing. They ranked second in the bigs in team defense in 2011.
All this sounds negative, but that’s not the point. I saw a Rays’ “fan” on twitter saying he was jumping off the boat and deserting the team after the first loss in Kansas City on Monday. He just couldn’t understand how they were doing so poorly with all their talent, and didn’t want to be a part of supporting the club’s mediocrity. But he’s missing the point. Or several points.
Over the past several seasons, Tampa Bay has put one of the most exciting teams in baseball on the field. They’ve represented the toughest division in baseball in the playoffs three times in the past four seasons, losing to the Phillies in the 2008 World Series. They have done it with talented but young players as well as older veterans who, while they might not have been at the top of their game, still fit in the team-oriented system of the Rays.
Tampa Bay has done it with one of the smaller payrolls in all of baseball. And they’ve had to battle the powerful and financially well-heeled teams that we know as the Yankees and Red Sox.
How have they done it? They’ve done it with a “team first” organizational view. They’ve done it with a family attitude, from top to bottom, an attitude which has them serving the Tampa Bay area in too many ways to number. And of course, they’ve done it with the genius of their front office and Joe Maddon and his staff.
So, I’m not about to drop the Rays. They’ve managed to stay competitive this season despite numerous injuries to key contributors. And they continue to bust their butts, day-in, and day-out. And what type of fan runs away when things are going badly? So, here’s to Matt Moore putting the Rays back in the win column this afternoon in Kansas City. Then, it’s back home to The Trop to host the Tigers.