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Rays journal: The ‘opener’ closes early this time in blowout

Rays manager Kevin Cash couldn't have liked much about his team's performance on Wednesday, June 6, 2018, an 11-2 rout by the Nationals. [Getty Images]
Published Jun. 7, 2018
Updated Jun. 7, 2018

WASHINGTON — For openers, Jonny Venters wasn't very good Wednesday, which made for a very bad day for the Rays, an 11-2 loss to the Nationals that extended their latest losing streak to six.

The veteran reliever struggled in his first starting assignment, allowing five of the six Washington batters he faced to reach base and eventually score.

Relieving starter Ryan Yarbrough wasn't much better, losing what seemed to be rugged battles by the Nationals hitters, allowing the last two of Venters' runs and five of his own over five-plus innings, and giving up 10 hits.

As tough as it was to watch — and as much as the short-sample, oversimplified results of a 3-5 record in eight games in which they used an "opener" to work the first inning or so don't seem overly optimal — the Rays are sticking with their plan.

Ryne Stanek was slated to throw the first pitch Thursday against the Mariners at Tropicana Field, with Austin Pruitt covering the bulk of the innings. Wilmer Font was scheduled to do so Friday in the second of the four-game series, with Matt Andriese behind him.

"I can be completely candid and honest,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "When it works, it feels pretty good when it's happening. But when it doesn't, it's pretty gut-wrenching because you sit there and you say, 'Yeah, you're taking two guys out of a spot. You're asking two guys to do something differently.'

"We're human in this. You care about emotions, feelings, thoughts and all of that. (Wednesday) was one of those gut-wrenching days. It didn't go our way. And it kind of smacked us right in the face. But one bad outing or one bad whatever you want to call it, I don't think it's fair to get away from it.''

Venters, who started a handful of games on rehabilitation assignments and was a starter in the low minors, said the assignment wasn't the issue.

"I didn't make many good pitches,'' he said. "It was disappointing. I didn't do my job. It happens. I don't think the role or whatever you want to call it had anything to do with it. I just didn't pitch well.''

And furthermore …

It wasn't just the pitching that was bad. The Rays lost the last six of their nine-game country-crossing road trip, Cash noting "poor defensive plays, miscues, mental miscues" and other similar missteps. "Frustrating, no doubt,'' he said. "Sloppy. Just not kind of our style of play. But I've got a lot of confidence in the guys. The staff has a lot of confidence they'll bounce back. They've done it numerous times already this early part of the season."

Draft concludes with a haul

The Rays wrapped up the three-day, 40-round draft pleased with their work from start to finish. "Overall, we'll find out over time,'' amateur scouting director Rob Metzler said. "I thought our process was very good, and each day walking out of the room, we were happy with the group of players we acquired. … The board fell well for us, and we walked away pleased." Among the Day 3 selections of note that Metzler said will get an opportunity: powerful Purdue 1B Jacson McGowan, multiskilled Puerto Rican C Kevin Melendez, and starting pitchers Trey Cumbie (Houston) and Christopher Gau (Jacksonville). Also of note, though he indicated he plans to go to college, was the 37th-round pick of INF John Rodriguez from Parkland's Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High, where 17 people were killed in a shooting in February. Also, Metzler confirmed that Tanner Dodson, the Rays' fifth overall pick, will get to play as a centerfielder and pitcher.

A matter of respect?

Veteran RHP Sergio Romo said he knows it was only the sixth inning, but he didn't like Nationals OF Michael A. Taylor stealing third with a 9-2 lead.

"I'm just pretty sure no one is stealing with (Nationals ace Max) Scherzer on the mound with a seven-run difference, no matter what the inning,'' he said. Taylor scored as C Wilson Ramos made an errant throw, which added to the situation. "I understand it. It's foot on the gas pedal. I get it. … You're playing hard, and you saw an opportunity to take a bag,'' Romo said.

"There's just things that were here before you and will be here after you that definitely don't need to be said or written about. … I've got no quarrels. I just didn't like that he took off.''

Numbers of the day

6 Consecutive losses by the Rays, their second longest skid of the season.
0-5 Record in a stretch of 25 of 28 games against playoff contenders.
0-7 Record in interleague play, losing to the Phillies, Braves and Nationals.
12 Starting pitchers used by the Rays, their most for a season since 2006.
13-13 Record in a stretch of 40 games in 41 days that began May 11.

Quote of the day

"Fouled off a pitch the first one, so that was a win. And put it in play the second time, so that was a win-win. That's really difficult.''
LHP Ryan Yarbrough, in his first at-bats since high school

Miscellany

• Albeit brief, Venters became the first pitcher in major-league history to start a game after having three Tommy John elbow surgeries, and the 13th to do so after two, following teammate RHP Nathan Eovaldi.

• Pitching coach Kyle Snyder, who was hospitalized in Seattle with a "personal medical issue" and flew home Sunday, might rejoin the team on this home­stand.

• C Wilson Ramos was touched by the warm reception he received from Nationals fans in appreciation of the seven seasons he spent in Washington. "It was amazing,'' he said. "The fans, the video, they were cheering my name. The 'Wil-son' chant, that made me feel so special.''

• Thirteen days after being unexpectedly traded by the Rays, RHP Alex Colome and OF Denard Span will be back at the Trop with their new Mariners team on Thursday night.

• The Rays were swept in a series for a majors-most-matching sixth time.

• 1B C.J. Cron hit his 13th homer, three shy of his career high for a season.

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