Series Review: #15 & 16: Miami Marlins
I’ll admit, putting this together had all the allure of attending an autopsy. The first three of this series all felt winnable yet the Rays came away with only one win before getting ground like a stump by Jose Fernandez. Timely hitting always seemed to go the other way, but a lot of that has to do with who the Rays are running out there on defense. Brandon Guyer in center is a negative. Corey Dickerson in left is a double negative. Steve Pearce at second is a negative. Brad Miller is probably a negative. Logan Morrison and Steven Souza Jr. have both looked mostly ok with some standouts, but each can be prone to the confounding play.
In the Rays pursuit of offense they have been forced, by necessity, to drop one of their central tenets to team building. Defense has been a hallmark here since the 2007 debacle that saw one of the worst defensive performances in modern history, no hyperbole, but of late we’re seeing bat-first players scattered around in response to the injuries to first Logan Forsythe, and then Kevin Kiermaier. Both are plus defenders, but Kiermaier pushes the bounds on the rare triple-plus. It’s hard to fault the team as the next best defensive outfielder down the ladder might be Johnny Field, and the bevy of guys that have funneled their way to second base might not have the bat to justify going with a better glove.
The team is making the majority of the routine plays, as they should, but it is the more difficult plays where they are exposed, which leads to pitchers having to face a batter with a man on base or have to face an extra batter after seemingly ending the inning. This has led to short stints that have further exposed the festering wound known as our middle relief. My kingdom for a nail, so to speak. It all came to a head in this series as the Marlins did a magnificent job of extending at bats with the result being Rays starters laboring early and often. Let’s delve in:
You can see how much of a coinflip the first three games were with both teams enjoying above average offense before the bloodbath that was the last game. The Rays were a solid favorite in each of those games before the last one giving Miami the slight nudge, but the team fell just shy of earning the split.
I think it’s easier to compare the batters next to each other to get a little more context. We can see that Ozuna continued his incredible season by feasting on the Rays. He was the best player in the series, but it was nice to see LoMo torture his original team with a good mix of patience, contact and power. Brandon Guyer was the next best hitter. He is quickly becoming one of the Rays best and most consistent options as he always finds a way to contribute with the stick. Speaking of torturing original teams, Derek Dietrich housed the Rays in three of the four games hitting ropes to the alleys and putting together tough at bats.
It was nice to see Taylor Motter have success back in his old stomping grounds, and if he can clean it up some with the glove he’s going to most likely bump Tim Beckham for a while. The long half of that platoon is being held down exceptionally at the plate by Brad Miller who continues to shrug off a slow start. One of the more frustrating things in this series was that Giancarlo Stanton was clearly banged up, hit well, and then missed the rest of the series. Christian Yelich didn’t even take an at bat. These guys are two of their biggest weapons and the Rays could not take advantage. Which leads us to the most frustrating thing. Getting beat by guys like Cole Gillespie, Adeiny Hechavarria, Miguel Rojas, and hell, even Chris Johnson’s toast ass hit a homer.
Flipping to the bottom we see Curt Casali’s funk continues, but he was joined by the recently hot Longoria and Pearce with the latter perhaps getting exposed a little bit having to play everyday. Baseball is such a grind that you can’t tell me that some guys get worn out faster than others by playing everyday. With Motter proving, at the least, capable at the plate it might make sense to give him some more run at second with Pearce moving into more of a 1B/DH/LF role.
Each team got a studly performance from a starter with the three others being a letdown, but it was in the pen where this series was won. You can see standout performances from McGowan, Phelps and Ramos who all pitched in high leverage situations late in the game. The Rays got good work from Colome, who entered the “elite conversation,” long ago, and I guess Dana Eveland wasn’t bad. That’s about it. Each of the other relievers were below average or much worse. The enigmatic Enny Romero might be the most frustrating. Some outings he can look untouchable and in others he can’t stay out of the heart of the plate if he can even find it. I’m sure Jim Hickey, et. al. have torn out many a hair over him, but if they can get him right he gives the Rays another shutdown arm. Something they seem to have in short supply these days.