Not a blowout, but not necessarily a tight game, either. The Guardians kept tonight’s loss close enough that it didn’t warrant ditching in the third inning, but did they ever really have a chance? Probably not.
J.C. Mejia continued the recent trend of starting pitchers looking OK if you squint and tilt your head a little bit. He allowed five earned runs and three home runs in six innings. His slider was effective though, inducing whiffs eight of the 13 times opposing batters swung on it.
Like so many pitchers before him, Mejia put this team in a position to win — even if it wasn’t with total domination — and they still blew it.
Ji-Man Choi gave the Rays the lead with a first-inning homer, but Bobby Bradley responded with a solo shot of his own in the second — a 107.1 mph blast that traveled 409 feet. A pair of third-inning home runs from Brett Phillips and Austin Meadows put the score at 4-1 Rays where it sat until José Ramírez plated Bradley Zimmer in the sixth.
Other than that, the offense completely stalled while the game was in reach.
Choi hit a double in the seventh to make the score 5-2 — plenty of time left for any normal Major League Baseball team to score four runs. Instead, the Guardians sat on their hands until the Rays broke the game open on yet another Choi hit and Austin Meadows home run in the ninth. That gave the Rays their final tally of 8-2.
Cleveland keeps finding ways to lose games, and tonight their torture device of choice was to just not get hits. It’s not like some losses where they strand every runner that gets on base — they just couldn’t get anyone into scoring position until the last couple innings.
If we want to squeeze some silver linings out of an ugly, boring loss consider that Phil Maton has now allowed just one earned run in his last 11 outings, and more often than not he’ll strike out a batter or two. He’s one of those guys where it seemed like the lack of sticky substances might end his effectiveness, but he’s kept chugging along and he seems to have earned the trust of Francona to pitch in clutch situations.
Bobby Bradley’s aforementioned home run isn’t as much of a trend as Maton’s recent success, but it’s something. It was his first home run in almost two weeks, and he didn’t strike out once.
They’ll try tomorrow ... again ... to beat the Rays and avoid a series, and season, sweep.