MIAMI — Taking advantage of early days off in the schedule and wanting to limit workloads for two new veteran starters, the Rays devised a plan to use both Rich Hill and Chris Archer in Saturday’s game.
The problem was neither was very sharp. Nor were any of the three relievers who followed.
And the result was pretty much a mess, the 12-7 loss in stark contrast to the crisp pitching Tampa Bay showcased in winning the first two games of the season.
The Marlins scored in seven of their eight innings. They rapped 14 hits, seven for extra bases. They drew five walks, three to lead off innings — and all of whom scored. They took advantage of lapses the Rays made in the field — most glaringly rightfielder Austin Meadows — and they controlled the running game, stealing three bases.
“Obviously it wasn’t ideal,’' Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “I’m not sure anybody had that great of a night tonight for us.’'
Hill, who allowed four runs over his four innings and 71 pitches, took a lot of the blame.
“I felt good. I felt like the ball came out good,’' he said. “Obviously the results weren’t very good.
“So there’s a lot of words I would like to use to describe it, but it wasn’t very good. Got to pitch better than that and do some work in these next couple days and get a game plan against the Yankees (his next opponent).’'
Archer said he didn’t want to get too down after allowing four runs (three earned) over two-plus innings and 52 pitches, given the circumstances.
Most notably that it was his first regular-season game since Aug. 20, 2019, having missed last season with Pittsburgh following June thoracic outlet syndrome surgery, then re-signing with the Rays in February.
But also that he was in an unfamiliar role, coming out of the bullpen, and had the misfortune of Meadows misplaying back-to-back balls in the fifth — getting twisted on one and seeming to drop the other — as Miami rallied to tie the score at 6 after the Rays had scored four in the top of the inning.
“I was thinking about that as I was walking to do (the postgame Zoom interview), not to be too hard on myself, because it’s been some time,’' he said. “Things were a little unconventional tonight, and I’m not going to beat myself up too much.
“I’m going to understand what I can do better in the future. It’s been some time. I hate that we took the L, and I took the L personally. I was responsible for it. But there’s a lot of good also, and we won the series.’'
Archer left after allowing the first two Marlins on in the seventh (including the second hit he allowed to Starling Marte with an exit velocity of 107-plus mph) and the score still tied.
And it got worse from there.
Ryan Thompson walked his first batter, then gave up a run-scoring single to his second. Jeffrey Springs came on with one out, got another, then gave up a soft single to Jon Berti that scored two.
After the Rays cut the lead to 9-7 in the eighth, reliever Collin McHugh, who also signed on after missing 2020 dealing with injury, gave up a homer on his first pitch, then two more runs.
The only real positive for the Rays was the way their offense battled to try and stay in the game. “This team’s going to come back in games,’' Cash said. “They’re just very talented.’'
After taking Sunday off, playing three in Boston and getting another day off, the Rays have to navigate playing 30 games in 31 days.
Hill, 41, and Archer, 32, will be separated going forward, pitching on their own (or possibly behind openers) starting next weekend against the Yankees. The Rays will need more from them. All are aware.
“I think both of those guys are capable of providing significant length for us when they go back into the rotation,’' Cash said. “And we go from there.’'
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