Kiermaier’s spark isn’t enough to stop Rays’ fall

by Gary Shelton on August 19, 2017 · 0 comments

in general

Querier missed 61 games for the Rays./JEFFREY S. KING

Kiermaier  missed 61 games for the Rays./JEFFREY S. KING

Saturday, 3:30 a.m.

No wonder Erasmo Ramirez is so darned happy.

After all, he got to pitch against the Tampa Bay Rays Friday night.

Ramirez, a pedestrian pitcher at best while he was with the Rays, came back into the Trop and threw a two-hitter to lead the Seattle Mariners to a 7-1 victory. It continued a frigid spell by the Rays, who have lost eleven of their last 14 games and continued their fall in the wild-card standings.

The Rays are now 60-64, the farthest they have been below .500 this year. It was the 10th time in their last 14 games they have been held to two runs or less, and the seventh time they have had four hits or fewer.

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Ramos had three of the Rays' four hits./CARMEN MANDATO

Ramos had three of the Rays' four hits./CARMEN MANDATO

Such is the problem with the Rays. In this slump, any pitcher at all can beat them. They've lost games to Brandon Woodruff (1-1), Rick Porcello (7-14), Mike Clevinger (6-5), Nick Tepesch (1-2) and Ramirez (5-4). Every pitcher isn't Chris Sale; the Rays just make them look that way.

“It feels weird because it's no more than a month,” Ramirez said. “But in my mind, no matter where you go, you execute every pitch. We have to fight for the playoffs so I cannot come in here and give up.”

It was another frustrating night for the Rays, who had hoped to break out of their slump after the addition of centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier. Kiermaier had missed 61 games, but he's an energy player, and as such, the team hoped to find a spark in him.

Duda drove in a run with a sacrifice fly./CARMEN MANDATO

Duda drove in a run with a sacrifice fly./CARMEN MANDATO

Kiermaier did have a hustle double in the sixth, and he scored on a fly ball by Lucas Duda. But it wasn't enough.

“All that matters is to win ballgames right now, and we didn't,” Kiermaier said. “So that's the main storyline for tonight. I felt good out there. I felt good in the box, defensively and on the bases. At the big-league level, it's been since June that I've done that. Hopefully, you guys see plenty more of that in the next month or so.”

Kiermaier was unable to catch a fly in the first inning. He said, however, that he was dekeing baserunner Robinson Cano to slow him on the basepaths.

During the Rays' funk, they have usually gotten decent starting pitching. Not so Friday night. Austin Pruitt gave up three runs before the Rays ever came to bat, and by the

Dickerson's average fell to .284 on the season./CARMEN MANDATO

Dickerson's average fell to .284 on the season./CARMEN MANDATO

time the fifth inning came, it was 6-0.

Pruitt threw 33 pitches in the first inning, but he went seven innings to help save the bullpen.

“I'd say it went okay,” Pruitt said. “Giving up six runs was not very good, obviously, but after throwing 33 pitches in the first inning, it was good to get seven innings out of it.”

The Rays, meanwhile, scratched out three hits by Wilson Ramos and one by Kiermaier. In this 14-game funk, they have gone eight-for-82 with men in scoring position, an average of .098. In those 14 games, the Rays have scored 24 runs, and 10 of those came in two victories.

Corey Dickerson, an all-star, continued his slump. He's now at .284, and it's gotten so bad the Rays pinch-hit Peter Bourjos for him.

“I know the hitting has had its struggles,” Rays' manager Kevin Cash said. “No doubt. I don't look at it as doing anything different, like chasing pitches. Corey was chasing pitches early, too. Our hitters are missing pitches that have plenty of white. Fastballs that are 89-93 (miles per hour) that we're just not covering for whatever reason.

“It's one thing if we're chasing pitches and we can probably make some adjustments. We're just missing pitches we should hit. Corey's right in that boat. Right now, as hot as he got, he might be just that cold. We're optimistic he'll get back up there. “

For Seattle, Nelson Cruz hit a 482-foot home run, the longest homer ever measured at Tropicana Field.

“Cool,” Cruz said. “Do they give me a prize for that?”

The Rays play the Mariners today at 6:10 p.m. at the Trop. Jake Odorizzi faces Ariel Miranda in the pitching matchup.

Pruitt gave up six runs in his first five innings./JEFFREY S. KING

Pruitt gave up six runs in his first five innings./JEFFREY S. KING

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