Thursday, November 23, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Archer K's 12, but Rays lose opener to Blue Jays

RECOMMENDED READING


ST. PETERSBURG

The Rays' prep for Sunday's season opener seemed to drip with the usual optimism, Evan Longoria leading the chorus by proclaiming this was "the best team from top to bottom" they'd had in his nine seasons, "as good as any playoff team I've ever played on here."

An hour or so later, principal owner Stu Sternberg stood on the field and made a more interesting assessment, explaining that his confidence was somewhat ebbed "because there is a wider range of outcomes" than before.

"We have thought in all of those years, including 2008 (when they went to the World Series), that we were an 80-something to 90-something win team," Sternberg said. "I don't know (this year). We could win 72, we could win 97 games."

By the end of the day, after the Rays dropped the opener to the Blue Jays 5-3 before a sellout crowd of 31,042 at the Trop, you could see exactly what he was talking about.

There were definitely some signs of promise.

Chris Archer righted himself after a shaky 34-pitch first inning to strike out 12 over five, and Rays pitchers fanned 16 overall. Longoria rapped a couple of hits. Corey Dickerson showed the big bat he was brought in for with a homer. The Rays rallied from a 5-1 ninth-inning deficit to get the tying run to the plate.

But there were also some reasons for concern.

Archer's inability to command his fastball put them in a 2-0 first-inning hole. On the day the Rays officially released slick-fielding James Loney, new first baseman Logan Morrison misplayed a couple of balls and missed on making another play. Kevin Kiermaier made an admittedly "embarrassing" baserunning blunder and got thrown out at third to end the fourth. Groundball specialist Ryan Webb gave up a two-run homer. And there already was talk about the need to maintain their aggressive offensive approach after being shut down into the ninth by Toronto ace Marcus Stroman.

"You want to get out of the gate to a good start," Kiermaier said. "But just Game 1. No need to hold our heads or anything by any means. … Just didn't happen today."

Archer, their All-Star ace, was not very good in the first inning, allowing two runs on two singles, two walks and a wild pitch and throwing 34 pitches. He was pretty darn good in the four innings after, allowing three hits and an unearned run — after Morrison botched a line drive — though throwing 73 more for a total of 107.

"Overall I wish I could have done a better job in the first inning," Archer said. "It probably could have helped us out later."

Longoria's third-inning single got the Rays within 2-1, but they got nothing else off Stroman until the ninth.

Manager Kevin Cash praised the 24-year-old's work. That sentiment echoed through the quiet clubhouse after the game, but the Rays were somewhat complicit in their own demise.

Seven times they made an out on Stroman's first pitch of an at-bat. They saw four total in the fourth inning, seven in the seventh and never more than 18 in any frame. He threw first-pitch strikes to 27 of the 32 Rays he faced.

"I like the way we stayed with an aggressive approach," Cash said. "You're going to run into that sometimes, where you have some late life like Stroman had, and the pitch count's not going to be high. We don't care about pitch count. It's more or less, if you think you can handle it, swing at it. So they maintained that. It was good to see."

Morrison, one of the five new hitters brought in and asked to buy into the aggressive approach adopted last July, didn't sound as sure after his 0-for-4.

"Pretty good pitcher, he doesn't give you much to hit," he said. "I think we needed to be a little more patient, myself especially be a little more patient, try to try to find something up in the zone."

The day had the usual festive undertones, even more so with commissioner Rob Manfred on hand. Several players, including Archer, noted the enthusiasm and energy provided by the crowd, which will be considerably smaller tonight.

And Sternberg's assessment may have been the biggest takeaway.

"If we have our guys stay healthy and perform up to their capabilities, I believe we'll take the division," he said. "And if we have some underperformers, the rest of the league is so good, you could become a 72-win team in a heartbeat."

Comments
Presenting the 2017 Sports Turkey of the Year

Presenting the 2017 Sports Turkey of the Year

Happy Turkey Day!Today is a day of tradition.The Macy’s parade. Turkey and stuffing. The Lions and Cowboys.And our annual "Turkey of the Year.’’It’s a tradition started by my former colleague at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the brilliant columnist P...
Published: 11/22/17
Updated: 11/23/17
Rays INF Matt Duffy has to say big goodbye to 27-pound cat Skeeter

Rays INF Matt Duffy has to say big goodbye to 27-pound cat Skeeter

When the Rays acquired INF Matt Duffy from the Giants during the 2016 season, we also heard about the giant and somewhat famous cat he had, an up-to-27-pounder named Skeeter.Duffy announced over the weekend on Instagram that the family had to have Sk...
Published: 11/21/17
Rays agonize over which prospects to protect on 40-man roster

Rays agonize over which prospects to protect on 40-man roster

ST. PETERSBURG — That the Rays went right up to Monday’s 8 p.m. deadline in deciding to add seven players to the 40-man roster, and that a couple they left off seem to be potential Rule 5 draft losses, was apparently a good thing."There’s always some...
Published: 11/20/17
Updated: 11/21/17
UPDATE: RHP Brent Honeywell among 7 added to Rays 40-man roster

UPDATE: RHP Brent Honeywell among 7 added to Rays 40-man roster

UPDATE, 8:11: RHP Jose Mujica was an additional addition to the roster, beyond the six previously reported. Mujica, 21, was 14-8, 3.04 ERA in 27 starts between Class-A Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery.So among those left unprotected and potentially ...
Published: 11/20/17
Former Devil Ray Aubrey Huff among newcomers to Baseball Hall of Fame ballot

Former Devil Ray Aubrey Huff among newcomers to Baseball Hall of Fame ballot

Aubrey Huff isn't going to make the Baseball Hall of Fame.But at least the former Devil Rays standout has the satisfaction of making the cut to get onto the ballot, one of 19 first-timers up for election this year.Other newcomers with Rays ties are O...
Published: 11/20/17
Topkin: As Rays start dealing, how far will they go?

Topkin: As Rays start dealing, how far will they go?

After collecting intelligence at last week’s GM meetings, the Rays soon will launch their offseason mission of trading at least a couple of veterans to reduce payroll.The question is how far they will go — how many players they deal, and how big of n...
Published: 11/18/17
Rocco Baldelli’s promotion on Rays coaching staff now makes him major league field coordinator

Rocco Baldelli’s promotion on Rays coaching staff now makes him major league field coordinator

The Rays completed the reorganization of their coaching staff by giving Rocco Baldelli the title of major league field coordinator.In being promoted from first-base coach, Baldelli will implement ideas and information from the staff, while assisting ...
Published: 11/17/17
Rays hope to cash in on Alex Cobb leaving

Rays hope to cash in on Alex Cobb leaving

LAKE BUENA VISTA — The Rays were banking on pitcher Alex Cobb declining their one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer based on the lure of a longer-term and more lucrative deal elsewhere as a free agent.With that decision official Thursday, now the ...
Published: 11/16/17
Commissioner Rob Manfred likes Ybor City stadium site, but must see more support to keep baseball in Tampa Bay

Commissioner Rob Manfred likes Ybor City stadium site, but must see more support to keep baseball in Tampa Bay

LAKE BUENA VISTA — MLB commissioner Rob Manfred didn’t want to talk Thursday about what might happen if the current effort to build the Rays a new stadium at the Ybor City site falls through."I’m more focused on working with the community to figure o...
Published: 11/16/17
A message to Rays fans from Alex Cobb

A message to Rays fans from Alex Cobb

Here is a message from RHP Alex Cobb after he officially left the Rays Thursday in declining their one-year, $17.4-milllion qualifying offer to seek a bigger and longer pact elsewhere:"Getting to this point in my career is truly bittersweet."Twelve y...
Published: 11/16/17