Starter Joe Saunders left in the fourth inning after being hit by a line drive, but he probably wouldn’t have stayed in the game much longer anyway after giving up six hits, five runs (four earned), three walks and a hit batsman. Saunders threw only slightly more strikes than balls and recorded only two groundouts, meaning that he was consistently pitching from behind, and the hitters were getting good swings as a result.
Reliever Daniel McCutchen didn’t look much better in his 2.1 innings, the low light being a three-run home run by eighth place hitter Ryan Hanigan. Things didn’t look much better for the offense, which generated just three singles off No. 5 starter Jake Odorizzi. A baserunning gaffe in the fourth (Prince Fielder was caught in a rundown between third and home) ended any chance to make the game competitive. Add in four infield errors, and it’s time to check out the postgame spread in the clubhouse.
Curiously, the Rays’ lack of fan support (14,304 for a Friday night contest) may be that club’s primary home-field advantage. Teams come in, see the size of the crowd, and do not play their best baseball. The Rays are used to tiny crowds and quiet fans, but such a venue has to be unnerving for clubs like Texas, which may easily draw twice that many fans for a Tuesday night game.
Whatever the reason, the Rangers turned in a stinker last night. But with two more against the Rays, followed by three games at the Boston Red Sox, there is little time for recrimination.