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Rays 5, Tigers 1: Meek offense meets excellent pitching

You aren’t going to win too many games in Tampa if you only get two hits.

MLB: Detroit Tigers at Tampa Bay Rays Dave Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

After dropping the season opener on Thursday, then losing in rather miserable fashion in a blowout on Saturday, the Tigers tried to salvage a win from their three-game series in St. Petersburg on Sunday. That wasn’t going to happen against that Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff, though, as they were quietly swept with a 5-1 loss.

Joey Wentz got the nod for the Tigers today. The lefty had a bit of a rough spring, but in a couple of brief call-ups last year, he mostly held his own. Of note was a stellar September start against the Royals in which he pitched into the seventh, surrendered a measly two hits, walked one and whiffed five. The key to the game for him would have to be his control, as his walk rate is a bit of a concern. Still, he has made some refinements to his cutter and changeup that were on display in this one.

Opposing Wentz was Jeffrey Springs. If this name doesn’t really ring any bells for you, you’re not alone — however, a cursory examination of his stats reveals he’s one of the many Tampa Bay Reclamation Projects we’ve seen over the years. He scuffled around with the Rangers and Red Sox for three years in his mid-20s, posting mostly lousy numbers out of the bullpen. But, following the script, the Rays saw something in him, fixed what was wrong, moved him to the rotation last year, bingo-bango, you got yourself a 2.46 ERA, 1.071 WHIP and a 4.65 K/BB ratio, son.

If you were looking at the Tigers lineup you may have been surprised to see more lefties against Springs than you were expecting. However, if you look at Springs’ lefty-righty split for 2022, right-handed batters had a slash line of .215/.260/.323 for a meagre .583 OPS; lefties slashed .248/.291/.453 for a .744 OPS, which isn’t great but it’s definitely better, hence the lefty-heavy lineup. Ultimately, though, it didn’t really matter.

Regardless of the handedness of the batter today, Springs had little trouble with the Tigers lineup — gee, if I had a nickel... — striking out seven through the first three innings, many on looking third-strike fastballs and ultimately notching a career high with 12. Then again, here’s an example of how he might just have been helped a bit by the home plate umpire, as pitch #2 was a called strike on Jake Rogers:

Rogers eventually struck out. The Tigers have looked more patient in the early going, but that doesn’t always help you if the strike zone expands against a pitcher showing really good command.

Wentz started off well himself, too: after a little first-inning wildness, he induced a bunch of groundouts and overall soft contact, and sprinkled a couple of strikeouts in there as well. He threw 32 pitches in the first three innings, which ain’t too shabby. His luck ran out in the fourth, though, as the Rays got on the board with a Randy Arozarena solo home run to left-center... but, other than that, there was a lot to like with Wentz’s start against a pretty good lineup.

He eventually gave up another run with one out in the sixth, which ended his day: Wander Franco hit a ground-rule double and came around to score on an Isaac Paredes single, making it 2-0 and giving way to Jason Foley. Luke Raley, running for Paredes, and Arozarena scored on a Jose Siri single to make it a 4-0 game.

Despite not giving up a hit and only allowing one baserunner (a Nick Maton walk) through six innings, Springs’ day was done, with Colin Poche taking over. Riley Greene beat out an infield single for the Tigers’ first hit, but the ol’ popout/flyout/groundout got the Rays out of the inning with no damage.

Alex Lange took over for the seventh and gave up a single but nothing else. He’s going to be a key member of the Tiger bullpen since the departure of quite a few key relievers after the 2022 season.

At this point I figured I should probably spend my afternoon doing something a bit more productive than only listening to lousy Tiger baseball, so I dug out this little USB-powered vacuum thing and gave my laptop keyboard a good cleaning. I can definitely recommend such a device.

Chasen Shreve came on for the eighth and a single, double and wild pitch made it 5-0. However, in the top of the ninth, Rogers got the Tigers on the board with a solo home run off Jalen Beeks, narrowing the gap to 5-1 and marking the first Tiger home run this year. Good to see The Sarge back, for sure, but that’s how the game ended.

It’s not like this thing’s going to get any easier, though, as the Tigers head off to Houston to open a three-game series in Houston on Monday night.

His Bat Might Drive you Crazy. His Glove, Though...

We’ll Have to Check with the Guinness Folks

Noted during Saturday’s game.

Can’t say I disagree.

Notes and Observations

  • The start of the game today was slightly delayed as the Rays honoured Don Zimmer in their Hall of Fame. He worked as an advisor and a Spring Training assistant from 2004 through 2014.
  • Saturday was Spencer Turnbull’s first major-league outing, or regular-season appearance of any kind, since 2021 and the ensuing Tommy John surgery. As was noted on our fine website, it didn’t go well. But, let’s just remember that it takes a while to get your control back to what it was before — so I’ll hold off on any judgement until at least July.
  • Attendance at the first two Rays games of the year: about 25k, about 20k, and today’s 19k for the Zimmer ceremony. To paraphrase Harry Doyle, “Yes sir, they love this club here in Tampa Bay!”
  • I visited Las Vegas for the first time for the first time in March. We went to “The D” after listening to all those commercials over the years. It’s... fine, I guess.
  • On this date in 1992, mob boss John “The Teflon Don” Gotti was finally convicted of murder and racketeering. He earned his nickname over the years because, like Teflon-coated frying pans, charges never seemed to stick to him. Well, these ones stuck, and it was the beginning of the end for the American Mafia.