Wednesday, 4 a.m.
Now, of course, we panic.
This is what we do in the face of reality. We run in circles and scream that the sky is falling. Our eyes bulge and our blood pressures rise, and we let ourselves believe that we will never score again. All fun has been canceled. Because this is what we do when the offense turns into a desert. We recognize the sand dunes.
The Rays were beaten – drubbed, really – and it feels like the Rays are about to plummet through the door and land squarely in the cellar.
The parade has been canceled. The confetti can go back in the box. Turn off the music.
Alas, the Tampa Bay Rays will not go undefeated, after all.
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Okay, okay. As nice as the opener was, this was like falling and landing on something hard. It was a dreadful performance against the Yankees, a team the Rays had beaten – drubbed, really – on Opening Day 7-3. But while that looked like a cohesive team shining in all aspects of the game, this looked like wandering through the darkness into trees. It was 5-0, Yankees, and it felt worse. It felt like the coffee break was over and it was time to stand on our heads.
Remember that crisp offense from Day One? On Day Two, the Rays got five hits, and four of them didn't leave the infield. Steven Souza Jr. had two hits, and the combined distance was about six feet. Only Evan Longoria in the first had a legitimate single to the outfield. This was fiesta-to-funeral in a heartbeat.
Oh, let's be honest. It was one game, the same as Opening Day. Nothing more than the start of a journey. But while Sunday felt promising, Tuesday felt perplexing. Again.
Remember the pitching dominance? This time, Jake Odorizzi gave up four runs, including two homers, to New York. Odorizzi averaged 17.8 pitches per inning. Last year, he led the AL at 17.6.
You know how bad it was? It was Lightning bad. Only the Bolts only lost 4-0 in Boston. Still, Tampa Bay's teams scored just as much as the Bucs, who are busy having their off-season.
So, really, two games in, and what do we have? Souza suggested the Rays are probably somewhere between the dominance of Game One and the dominated of Game Two, and that sounds about right. Tampa Bay has never been much into offense – in any sport – so this could be a scuffle again. The Rays were shut out 10 times last season.
The real differences between Sunday and Tuesday, of course, was the opposing pitchers. Period. Masahiro Tanaka, supposedly the Yanks' ace, was bloodied by the Rays' offense, giving up seven runs in 2.2 innings. But C.C. Sabathia, who
is 36 going on 47, was a master at keeping the Rays off-balance.
Should Sabathia, coming off of a 9-12 season, have been able to dazzle the Rays so completely?
Maybe. Maybe not. This will certainly promote the theory that the Rays overswing instead of worry about contact.
“My cutter was better than it has been in a long time,” Sabathia said. “My two-seamer was good. It was helping me on both sides of the plate.”
As for Cash, he swears this will be a good-hitting team. But the Rays' history is largely of a bunch of guys flailing. The Bucs haven't had very good offenses. The Bolts.
“We're going to have some nights where it's quiet,” Cash said. “You look at what Sabathia did. He was moving the ball. He really pitched.. He was pitching into the righties, then he went away. There wasn't a sequence we could adjust to.”
Souza had two hits – total distance, about six feet. Still, he gave credit to Sabathia. “Sometimes, you have to tip your hat,” he said.
Cash was pleased with Odorizzi, who gave up two homers and four runs in seven innings. Odorizzi was galled about a two-run homer in the third to Ronald Torreyes, his pitch about “a plate difference” as it was hit out of the park.
But Odorizzi lacked the dominance that Archer had in the first game. In all, the Rays lacked pretty much everything. Remember the crisp defense? Peter Bourjas lost a double in the catwalk. Remember the offense? The Rays couldn't figure out Sabathia. Remember the hitting? The Rays struggled.
So which is this team, really? The sample is too small. We need more evidence. We need more games with good hitting and solid pitching and dependable defense. We need a team that can build a resume.
Tonight, when the Rays play the Yankees again, it may help us figure it out.