Tampa Bay Rays 5, Toronto Blue Jays 1
Let’s get this out of the way first: Evan Longoria’s glove is criminal and should not be legal on an MLB diamond. Hot Evan had a couple of nice picks at the hot corner, a diving stab, and made the game-ending double play, which was anything but, look routine. Go away, Longoria. Go away.
With that said, the Blue Jays probably weren’t going to win this game on merit anyway, as the bats went cold against a wild-but-deadly Matt Moore. Joe Maddon gave Moore plenty of leash, working through some control problems to throw six innings and 120 pitches, finishing with 11 strikeouts, six walks and just four hits allowed.
The broadcasters hammered home early in the game the need for the Jays to be patient in the early going, since Moore throws the league’s lowest rate of first-pitch strikes, However, consider the following:
*Moore still throws first-pitch strikes 52% of the time. *He throws a first-pitch fastball 48% of the time. *He throws a first-pitch fastball for a strike 37% of the time. *Players tend to do well against first pitch offerings and probably swing too infrequently as is.
But the Jays went ultra-cautious and passive, swinging at the first pitch just twice through five innings, not getting more aggressive until the sixth. Their first-pitch profile is as follows, with the total number of each and the number through five innings in parentheses:
Total PA: 28 (23)
1st Pitch Swing: 6 (2)
1st Pitch Take: 22 (21)
1st Pitch Hit: 1 (1)
1st Pitch Out: 1 (1)
1st Pitch Foul: 2 (0)
1st Pitch Whiff: 2 (0)
1st Pitch Called Strike: 8 (8)
1st Pitch Ball: 14 (13)
So the Jays put a first pitch in play just twice, went 0-1 12 times and went 1-0 14 times. I suppose that’s decent considering it’s an advantage more than 50% of the time, but I’m not sure it was enough of a difference for the team to go up with a clear goal of not swinging early.
I should note that I have no idea if they were told to do that – it’s speculation based on some of the strikes they laid off. And it’s generally a smart idea to exploit a pitcher’s weakness. But they didn’t seem to adjust until Moore had gotten in a dominant groove.
Adam Lind was a Moore victim three times and had a tailor made double play turned into a fielder’s choice in his non-Moore at bat. Lind looked a lot like 2011-12 Adam Lind for one night only, lacking the discipline that has refined his approach this year. In the past two seasons, high heat was Lind’s kryptonite as he swung on 56 of 85 "hard" offerings above the strikezone. Moore got him to reach for a couple of those and reach low out of the zone on a couple others.
It actually led me to a curious and somewhat worrisome finding – pitcher’s have thrown Lind almost NO high and hard pitches this year. That was the book on him previously and teams have gotten away from it, perhaps because that’s a risky place to miss against a hot hitter. It will be interesting to see if he sees more of those offerings moving forward and if he can lay off.
Mark Buehrle looked old and punchless tonight, much like he did earlier in the year. He labored through five innings, walking four and being BABIP’d to death with eight hits, striking out just two and surrendering four runs.
The changeup was the only pitch Buerhle had working, coaxing six whiffs to just one for the rest of his pitches combined. This continues a season long trend of him only being able to fool batters with the change.
Buehrle is who he is, so I shouldn’t nit pick, I suppose, but if he’s going to be mediocre I at least expect him to give the team six innings. Tonight, he didn’t have it.
And the rest…
*How about that weather, yeah? The thunder and rain was audible on the Jays broadcast, even mercifully knocking out the Sportsnet feed for a bit in the bottom of the sixth. Alas, it came back. Sigh.
*Brett Cecils’ reign of dominance is over, as he allowed a hit for the first time in 40 batters and a run for the first time in 20 innings. Quite good, that guy.
*Jose Molina’s slide to avoid J.P. Arencibia’s tag at home plate in the fourth inning was the greatest cannonball in recorded human history. He was safe, by the way, though with the number of borderline calls you think the Jays could have gotten one to fall their way.
*Arencibia had a rough game. Although he walked on four pitches once, he also struck out twice (yawn), did a poor job framing, allowed a double steal without making a throw, and failed to block a ball in the dirt that allowed a runner to move up, taking away a double play threat with Molina batting.
*It was the last we’ll see of Munenori Kawasaki for some time, as he was optioned to Buffalo to make room for Jose Reyes after the game.