RAYS 7, Kansas City 1
Jeff Niemann gave the Rays eight full innings of mostly dominant pitching. Of course, the opposing offense wasn't much, and he did give up several extra-base hits (including the DeJesus solo shot that accounted for all of the Royals scoring). But that's the point. This was exactly the kind of start Niemann should have against a team like the Royals, exactly the kind of start we were hoping for, and precicely the reason why Rays fans have reason to hope that if the rest of the staff starts pitching as well as the number five guy, the Rays might actually stay in playoff contention through September.
Dionner Navarro hit a single and a double, scored a run and, with an assist from Carl Crawford (who also contributed a two-run homer), made a great play at the plate that prevented a run from scoring and ended the fifth inning. Of course, he also grounded into a double play to end the Rays' eighth, but by then the score was 7-1 in their favor.
The Rays' Offence still struggles against starting pitching--even when that starting pitching is solidly mediocre. I know, it's odd to complain about an offense that puts up seven runs, but this was a closer game than it should've been for longer than it should've been. With the exception of Bartlett's two-run triple in the second (during which he scored on a throwing error--Callaspo sailed the throw to third and nobody was backing up the bag), the Rays didn't manage much against Royals starter Bruce Chen, who is now 0-6 with a 5.73 ERA and a 1.49 WHIP. Yesterday was his longest start of the year for the Royals at 6.2 innings.
The Rays' Baserunning continues to frustrate me and everybody else. Pat Burrell was gifted first base when the Royals failed to catch a routine pop-up. Unfortunately, Pat the Out almost failed to notice, because he was too busy sulking and half-heartedly shuffling down the baseline. Then, when he did notice, he decided to try for second. He was thrown out, and it wasn't close. If he'd stayed put, he might've been on base when Bartlett hit his triple, thereby giving the Rays another run. Similarly, Gabe "Gabe" Kapler inexplicably tried for home on a long liner by Navi after he'd been waiting to tag up on it. When the ball dropped, Kapler was still standing on second. The Rays should've had runners at the corners. Instead, they got a man on first--a slow man on first--and two outs. If Kapler had gone half way between the bags, maybe he makes it home safe; if stays at third, maybe he scores on the wild pitch later that inning.
Fox Broadcasting is just annoying.
The Rays are looking for a third win against the Royals today, and they need it. Hopefully, tomorrow we're talking sweep and the Rays have a full head of steam ready for Boston on Tuesday. Both the Wild Card and the division are at least hypothetically within reach, but the Rays need every win they can get. Every game against the Royals is a winnable game, so...
LET'S GO RAYS!!