Rays journal: Lefties do surprising damage to lefty ace Chris Sale

Kevin Kiermaier socks Chris Sale’s 0-and-2 pitch out to right for a two-run homer in the fifth, one of two by Rays lefties.
Kevin Kiermaier socks Chris Sale’s 0-and-2 pitch out to right for a two-run homer in the fifth, one of two by Rays lefties.
Published May 14, 2017

BOSTON — Given the inherent challenge of facing Red Sox ace Chris Sale, an overall bad day included some good for the Rays.

Though striking out 12 times in seven innings against the Lakeland-born lefty in Saturday's 6-3 loss, the Rays did get homers from the two lefty swingers in their lineup, Logan Morrison and Kevin Kiermaier.

The blasts were somewhat unexpected, as Sale had not allowed even an extra-base hit to a lefty this season.

Morrison, who went deep with one out in the second, said he decided to guess changeup and got one, extending his sizzling start with his team-leading 10th homer.

Last season, Morrison didn't hit his first (of 14 total) until May 18 in the Rays' 38th game. With 10 in 39 team games this season, he is the quickest Ray to double digits since 2009, when Carlos Peña got there in Game 24 and Evan Longoria in Game 30.

Kiermaier also "guessed right" on his two-run shot in the fifth, launching an 0-and-2, 98 mph fastball and continuing what look to be strides out of an extended skid in which he went 8-for-67 over 19 games.

"I feel good at the plate right now, so any type of contribution I can make to the team, I'm all about it," he said. "But (Saturday) it was kind of like I closed my eyes and just swung and made contact."

It was just the third game in Sale's career in which he gave up two homers to lefty hitters. He still had a good day, running his majors-most strikeout total to 85 and joining Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and Nolan Ryan as the only pitchers since at least 1913 to have seven straight starts with 10 or more.

Number of the day

15 Majors-most losses by the Rays in games they led.

Weather, or not

The Rays seem to be in for either a short day or a long one today, given a forecast that calls for heavy rain and high winds to go with temperatures in the 40s. Like most visiting teams on getaway days, the Rays are hoping for an early call if there is a rainout so they can try to head to Cleveland. But the forecast improves throughout the day, so the Red Sox, who play next on Tuesday in St. Louis, could wait and start later this afternoon.

Change in works for Cobb

RHP Alex Cobb has been pitching, and pitching quite well, almost exclusively with his fastball and curveball, his solid six-plus innings in Friday's win over the Red Sox the latest example. But he hasn't abandoned the changeup that was once his top weapon. In fact, he has been throwing it around 40 times a game — during his between-innings warmups. "You're not able to get into game mode until game day, when your intensity is at the highest level," Cobb said Saturday. "So that's when I work on it, when I practice. … It's almost to the point where I can trust it in a game right now. But the other two pitches are so good right now, I don't feel like it's worth it to veer away from them."

Medical matters

OF Steven Souza Jr. (bruised right thumb) started for the first time since Monday but went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. … RHP Tommy Hunter threw what he said was a "phenomenal" bullpen session, the first full test since straining his right calf in late April, and will do so again in Cleveland. … SS Matt Duffy (left heel) went 0-for-2 for Class A Charlotte but felt some soreness. He opted for caution and didn't take his third at-bat.

Balk this way

After being called unexpectedly, and perhaps unfairly, for a balk in his most recent start based on a new rule regarding using the windup with a runner on third, RHP Matt Andriese plans a different approach today. "It's kind of a fine-print rule where you have to tell the umpire what you're doing, I guess, because the way we set up in the stretch and the windup is too similar," Andriese said. "I think I'll just be going out of the stretch. If the umpire sees it's the same motion, I don't have to declare, but I will do that if I need to just to prove a point."

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Quote of the day

"He's one of the few you would probably sit down at the end of your career … and say I got to play with. That's pretty cool. I'm happy for him."

Rays manager Kevin Cash, left, on (briefly) former Yankees teammate Derek Jeter, who gets his No. 2 retired tonight