Starting pitching has to pick up for Rays to win

by Gary Shelton on April 11, 2016 · 0 comments

in general

Moore gets his second start of the year Tuesday./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Moore gets his second start of the year Tuesday./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Archer has a 7/20 era after two starts.

Archer has a 7/20 era after two starts.

Monday, 6 a.m.

Despite the addition of power, there were too many hitters having to bounce back from poor seasons. So it was fair to be concerned about the Rays' hitters.

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Smyly gave up two homers to lefties in loss to Blue Jays./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Smyly gave up two homers to lefties in his start./TRAVIS PENDERGRASS

Shortstop didn't throw as well, and first base didn't field as well. So it understandable if you were a little concerned about the defense.

Brad Boxberger was hurt, and Jake McGee was gone. If you had some issues with the bullpen, that would have been understandable.

But the starting pitching?


Odorizzi gave up a four-run second Sunday.

Odorizzi gave up a four-run second Sunday.

The Rays have won two of six games, and one of those was by way of the rulebook. But the Rays were a sub-.500 team a year ago, too. So
that probably doesn't surprise you much. But the way that the Rays have lost — with the starting pitching faltering — is the real surprise here.

Chris Archer? He has a 7.20 era, and in his last outing, he gave up four home runs.

Drew Smyly? He has a 6.75 era.

Jake Odorizzi? He gave up four runs in the second inning Sunday.

Matt Moore? He has a 5.40 era.

Together, they are 0-4, and they've given up 21 earned runs and nine home runs in five starts. In other words, the strength of the team is letting the team down. Not once have they turned a lead over to the bullpen. Not once have they dominated in the manner we are accustomed. Every starting pitcher has given up at least a three-run inning.

Yeah, yeah. It's early, and these things even themselves out. There is too much talent on this team for the Rays not to win the portion of the game when they are on the mound.


0-4? With these arms, what the odds of that happening?

"Don’t confuse that with me saying they haven’t thrown the ball well,"" manager Kevin Cash said. "It’s just a matter of we know they’re capable of more. Any one of our starters we feel can go out on any given day against any lineup and give us a really good chance to win the ballgame.”

Oh, in some ways, you could see this coming. Archer, Odorizzi, Smyly and Moore were only a combined 29-28 a year ago. But, for pitchers, that's only part of the measurement. All but Moore had eras underneath 4.00. All but Moore had whips in the 1.1 range.

Not this year. The Rays have had to hope they could keep the game close enough for a comeback this year.

“We’ll have better results,” Odorizzi said. “But for now, from a staff standpoint, we’re not happy with the way we’re throwing the ball.”

It feels all wrong. For years, pitching has been the great equalizer for the Rays. They won because their No. 1 and No. 2 pitcher were usually better than the other team's, and they're No. 3, No. 4 and No. 5 were certainly better.

The bullpen that had so many concerns? It's been lights out, allowing only three earned runs all year. The hitting hasn't come around yet, with a .223 batting average, and the first basemen kind of swat at the ball.

But the problem has been the starters. They have to be better.

Okay, okay. The pitchers can sue for non-support. Odorizzi has half-a-run a game to work with. Archer and Moore have one run per game. Smyly has three. And any pitcher will tell you that the fabric of a game is different when you have a lead.

Look, we all know the way the Rays have to win, and it starts with the starters. Yeah, they have have a little more pop than most years, and maybe a little less defense, and maybe the bullpen will surprise us. But this team always has been built on the starting arms.

If this year is to matter, they will be again.

It would just be nice to be reminded now and then.

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