1. Rays

Rays journal: Max Scherzer, Nationals prove too much in 4-2 win over Rays

The Rays' Mallex Smith reacts after a called third strike against Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer during the fifth inning on Tuesday, June 5, 2018. [Associated Press]
The Rays' Mallex Smith reacts after a called third strike against Nationals starting pitcher Max Scherzer during the fifth inning on Tuesday, June 5, 2018. [Associated Press]
Published Jun. 6, 2018|Updated Jun. 6, 2018

WASHINGTON —The Rays knew the Max Scherzer experience would be vexing Tuesday, and it was in a 4-2 loss.

Scherzer struck out 13 — including three on nine pitches in an "immaculate" sixth inning — over a dazzling eight, with 81 of his 99 pitches for strikes. He did allow five hits, including a two-run pinch-hit double to Brad Miller in the eighth, raising his ERA from 1.92 to 1.95 as he went to 10-1.

"The strike-throwing probably amazes me as much as anything,'' Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "There's no secret. You knows he's coming right after you, he's throwing the ball right over the plate, it's kind of here it is, hit it. …

"I looked up and at one point it was like 86 pitches, 70 strikes. It's absurd. Guys just don't do that. There's a lot of good pitchers in this league but for a guy to just sit there and pound the strike zone the way he did and not give up hard hits, it's really telling about how special of a pitcher he is.''

Scherzer threw first pitch strikes to 25 of the 28 batters, and his 82 percent strike rate was the highest of his career.

The Rays were impressed to various degrees:

2B Joey Wendle: "He throws 96 from his armpit basically. He does a really good job hiding the ball. He comes out of the same arm slot with the same arm speed pretty much every pitch. You know a strike's coming, you don't know what pitch and you don't know in what count or in what location. He's pretty unpredictable."

3B Matt Duffy: "He pounds the zone and doesn't make a lot of mistakes, especially with his off-speed stuff, and he throws them for strikes. It's no secret he's one of the best in the league. He probably makes more mistakes with the fastball than anything, but it's 96. He's got weapons and he throws them all for strikes."

SS Daniel Robertson: "My thoughts are I pissed away four at-bats today overthinking, trying to out-smart what he's doing rather than seeing the ball and hitting it. At the of the day he has to throw it over the plate and I messed up when he did and I chased when he didn't.  … At the end of the day it's Max Scherzer, and that's why he's the best in the game."

Scherzer became the fifth pitcher to log two immaculate innings, having done so last year vs. the Phillies. The first four two timers were Lefty Grove, Sandy Koufax, Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson.

"I honestly didn't know it happened," Scherzer said. "Then I walked off the field and I was like, wait a second, I think that was it. So yeah, that's cool."

RHP Nathan Eovaldi wasn't as sharp as his no-hit debut last Wednesday at Oakland, but wasn't bad over five innings, the last run scoring on a wild pitch past C Wilson Ramos with Scherzer batting, which Cash said can't happen.

"I couldn't get the splitter going and the cutter going," said Eovaldi. "Other than that, I thought I attacked the zone well and I attacked the hitters well. I might have had some bad sequences in there. Other than that, it was just when I got ahead I couldn't put them away. I let them battle back in  the count, and they hit the ball well."

The one’s close to being done

The Rays are moving quickly toward a deal with top draft pick LHP Matthew Liberatore, whose slot value as the No. 16 pick is $3.6 million. Liberatore, an Arizona commit, tweeted Tuesday: "I could not be more grateful to be a part of the Rays organization and have a bright future in Tampa!'' Amateur scouting director Rob Metzler said Tuesday that no deal was done but "We're hopeful that should be able to move relatively quickly. … We're moving in the right direction, and we're optimistic.''

Solid second day in draft

The Rays made Rice SS Ford Proctor and Tulane CF Grant Witherspoon the first of their eight picks during rounds 3-10 of the draft Tuesday, and they seemed particularly pleased to add 17-year-old RHP Taj Bradley, a Georgia high school player, in the fifth round. "The board played well for us,'' Metzler said. "To be able to add the two college position players to start the day in Ford Proctor and Grant Witherspoon, that was exciting. Taj Bradley is a high school arm that we targeted throughout the spring, a really talented young man, the youngest player in the draft in some time.'' The draft concludes Wednesday with rounds 11-40.

Pitching coach out of hospital

Manager Kevin Cash said there was good news on pitching coach Kyle Snyder, who was released from a hospital in Seattle and flew home Sunday. The Rays have not provided any specifics on his "personal medical issue" or said when he'll rejoin them. Bullpen coach Stan Boroski has been filling in.

Buffalo roaming

C Wilson Ramos said before the game that he had been looking forward to this one against Washington since he saw the schedule last year, and he was given a warm welcome back. Ramos played parts of seven seasons and had good memories with the Nationals and a close relationship with their fans. That showed during pregame introductions, during a quick video tribute and prior to his at-bats, where he was cheered, and at one point, breaking out a quick version of the "Wil-son, Wil-son" chant as part of the Phish song that serves as his walkup music.


• CF Mallex Smith was ejected in the eighth. Cash said it was because he voiced too much displeasure at the umpire over a check-swing call. Smith's explanation: "He told me that Superman was better than Batman, and I disagreed."

• The loss was the fifth straight  for the Rays (28-31), the only team in the majors with winning and losing streaks of at least five games.

• RHP Yonny Chirinos was sent to Triple-A Durham after recovering from a forearm strain so he can work as a starter and continue to build up his pitch count. "We're very confident we'll be calling him back up,'' Cash said.

• Cash confirmed LHP Anthony Banda, the top prospect acquired from Arizona in the spring Steven Souza Jr. trade, will soon have Tommy John elbow surgery, as reported Monday in the Tampa Bay Times.

• Though all of the active players have changed, Nationals manager Davey Martinez said it was still special going against the team he played and coached for over 10-plus seasons: "It's about the uniform. I wore that uniform for many years, and it still means a lot to me. I cherish the time I was there. I got an unbelievable opportunity to be here in Washington, and I love it.''


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