Cleveland (92.3 the Fan) – There are what is known as three true outcomes in baseball, the end results that the pitcher technically has control over. Those are the strikeout, the walk and the home run.
When baseball’s most aggressive team, the Tampa Bay Rays, visited Cleveland and their vaunted starting rotation, the results were largely “true,” and mostly positive for the road team.
Over the course of the teams’ three-game series, the Rays knocked in 13 of their 20 runs on 10 home runs, including three from LF Corey Dickerson. The visitors also struck out 40 times.
“Anytime you punch out 16 people in one game, you probably won’t give up five home runs. That’s perplexing,” Pitching Coach Mickey Callaway said. “You just don’t see it very often. Sometimes, we’re like, ‘What’s going on here? How do we fix this?’ It’s something that, we need to do a better job as a starting staff right now.”
In the last two days, both Callaway and Manager Terry Francona used those words like ‘perplexing’ and ‘vexing’ to describe the struggles of their pitchers. The latest casualty of the homer-to-strikeout ratio that is the Rays lineup was Josh Tomlin, who simply presented the dichotomy as another hurdle needed to be climbed.
“I know they swing a lot, but they can find the barrel pretty good, too, sometimes when they get on that roll,” the righty said. “They strung together a few hits and then you make a mistake to probably the hottest hitter on their team at the time (Dickerson), and he put a good swing on it and hit the ball a long way.”
Perhaps the risk of an all-or-nothing is not the biggest issue with the Rays lineup, but streaks of nothing followed by streaks of ‘all’ can end your day quickly. Tomlin struck out five consecutive Rays before allowing four straight hits, the final of which was the 3-run shot from Dickerson.
When an aggressive team gets going, they get going collectively, as Tomlin saw on Wednesday.
“I think that was the main thing, is just when the mistakes started happening, or if they strung together one or two hits that kind of fell in, like a shark smelling blood, they just kind of started swinging,” he said. “I left the ball over the heart of the plate on a couple of those pitches and they put good swings on them.”
Danny Salazar’s outing on Tuesday proved to be the longest of the homestand at 5+ innings, though Carlos Carrasco exited due to injury on Monday, forcing the bullpen to work 16 innings compared to the starters’ 11 total.
As the rotation continues to struggle overall, Carrasco being the lone consistent arm thus far, Yan Gomes said Monday that the team does not look to exploit the opposition’s aggressiveness straight away. The catcher said the team will look to operate on the starter’s strengths before making adjustments to that of their opponent.
The problem is that the team’s strengths have not been capitalized upon, something Callaway admitted post-game on Wednesday.
“Obviously, all of them have really good stuff. Some of the numbers show that. I don’t think we’ve probably executed as well as we can,” he said. “We probably haven’t pitched to our strengths as well as we can, and I think some of the numbers show that. It’s kind of perplexing when you look at, ‘How is this possible? This number doesn’t usually correlate with what’s going on over here.’”
Francona said he and Callaway decided they will meet with the rotation upon their arrival in Houston to discuss what they can do going forward.
“I think we have to make it correct themselves,” he said. “I don’t know that just by showing up and say, ‘Well it’s a new day.’ Yeah that’s a good way to start, but we need to do some things better.”