BOSTON — Jeffrey Springs picked up a good tip Saturday.
Don’t tip your pitches to a lineup of mostly experienced hitters like the Red Sox have.
Springs was doing exactly that in the first inning, and the four runs he allowed before making an adjustment were the primary reason the Rays lost 5-1.
“I was just allowing them to know what’s coming probably a little bit too much in the stretch, to be honest,” Springs said. “Once I was able to correct that and keep them from knowing, sitting on certain pitches, I think I settled in pretty good the rest of the game.
“But a good hitting team like that, when you allow them to know what’s coming early on, they’re going to make you pay. And I think that’s what happened.”
The lack of support from the Rays hitters was also a factor in the frustrating loss. Especially over the first seven innings as they were shut out and shut down by 2021 teammate Rich Hill, the 42-year-old lefty who allowed only three hits (two that didn’t leave the infield) and struck out 11.
“He’s the Fountain of Youth over there,” Springs said. “The guy knows how to pitch, he knows how to get outs, he’s got really good stuff. Even at this age, he’s good. He’s a competitor and understands how to get outs, swing and misses — 11 Ks (Saturday). He’s good.”
The second straight loss dropped the Rays to 69-57, and pending the results of Seattle’s late game, potentially out of the top spot in the three-team American League wild-card field. (Toronto lost a second straight game to the Angels.)
Springs didn’t want to get into the specifics of how he was tipping his pitches, but made clear it was something he was able to correct, which could mean showing his grip on the ball, or the placement of his glove or hands.
“After they scored the four runs it was, ‘All right, need to do something different, because something’s not working,’” he said. “I felt like the stuff was good (Saturday). They were just able to capitalize early.”
When a reporter asked if the adjustment was being a little bit more unpredictable with his pitch selection, Springs said, “Yeah, we’ll go with that.”
Then he said a little bit more.
“Just some changes to keep them off-balance. I won’t go into it but, yeah, just trying to keep them from knowing what’s coming,” he said. “You saw the difference in the swings as the game went on. As opposed to that first inning, runners on, (it) was a lot different.”
Stay updated on Tampa Bay’s sports scene
Subscribe to our free Sports Today newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
It was. After allowing six of the first eight Red Sox players to reach in the 32-pitch first inning, Springs allowed only three hits over the next five (including an Enrique Hernandez home run), and threw only 54 more pitches.
There was some benefit to the bullpen in Springs going six innings, and new callup Garrett Cleavinger impressively handled the final two.
But the inability to get anything going against Hill, who was being his usual creative self on the mound, varying delivery times and forms, made the hole too big, as they rapped three straight hits in the eighth off reliever Jeurys Familia to at least avoid the shutout.
Manager Kevin Cash said Hill wasn’t doing anything surprising.
“What we’ve seen him do, we saw him do last year for us, he can really get creative on the mound,” he said. “Different delivery, it seems, every third pitch. … And we know he’s going to go out there and compete.”
As for Hill — whom Cash caught in 2010 with Boston — still being so effective?
“Well, he did it at (41) for us, he’s just one year older,” Cash said. “But yeah, I mean, look, the athleticism that he shows to be able to do that within his delivery — start, stop — it is impressive. And when he’s on like he was (Saturday), he’s really tough to time up.”
• • •
Sign up for the Rays Report weekly newsletter to get fresh perspectives on the Tampa Bay Rays and the rest of the majors from sports columnist John Romano.