ST. PETERSBURG — Both the Angels, who won 13-5, and the Rays did a lot of things wrong Tuesday in a sloppy game that was reflective of their records that are second and third worst in the American League, ahead of only the Twins.
But it was something one of the Rays didn't do — specifically, run hard to first base — that led to what was the most interesting development of the eventful day.
Steven Souza Jr. was pulled from the game at the end of the third inning after an at-bat in which he jogged toward first base after hitting a routine fly ball, only to see it drop between two Angels outfielders and roll away. Souza was about halfway down the line when he kicked it into gear and raced to third, and that he made it standing up was further proof that hustle from the start would have been paid off.
Manager Kevin Cash declined to explain why he pulled Souza, saying that it was a matter that would be kept "in-house.''
But Souza said the message was made clear to him in the dugout.
"I think the bottom line is that I play hard, but right there I didn't play very hard. I got caught slipping and took for granted a routine play. … I got to third, but I could have easily scored if I was running hard," Souza said.
"It's a bit embarrassing. It's not how this team runs, it's not how we want our identity to be and I'm not proud of it. … (Cash) let me know I was pulled. At the end of the day, he's the boss, and I've got to play hard for the boss and for this team."
Why Cash chose to act then, and considered Souza's actions egregious when others have seemed guilty of like offenses or similarly lackadaisical play, remained unclear. It is believed to be the first time in Cash's 1½ seasons as manager that he took such action.
Asked about pulling Souza, which is obviously a very public form of discipline, Cash said it was not a topic for discussion:
"You know what … there are issues that happen in a team that we address kind of in-house, we'll keep in-house and just kind of move on from there."
But it did seem he was sending a message, right?
"There was no message at all," Cash said. "Again, just something that we'll keep inside."
Souza is typically hustling all over the field, so the lapse was somewhat uncharacteristic. He said it didn't matter if he was being made an example of.
"I don't think it matters either way," he said. "Either way you spin it, when you get down to it, I just wasn't running hard. …
"That's not in my DNA, that's not how I want to play this game, that's not how I want to be known how to play this game. I took one play off and I got exposed."
Souza said he tries to lead by how hard he plays, and knows this was a bad example: "I'm going to do my best to never let it happen again.''
The game was sloppy and poorly played by both teams, with three errors charged and a handful of other plays missed or not made. The two times the Rays took a lead, 1-0 in the first and 5-4 in the fifth, starter Jake Odorizzi promptly gave it right back and then some as they lost for the 17th time in their past 20 games, now 34-49 overall.
Odorizzi, the subject of trade speculation, and with top scouts from the White Sox and Red Sox joining the group that includes the Rangers and Royals already watching him, had a rough night, allowing seven runs on nine hits over 51/3 innings. And the bullpen had another bad night, or at least a really bad inning, as Enny Romero and Dana Eveland teamed to allow six runs in the ninth.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.