ANAHEIM, Calif. - There were two runners on base, one out and a run already in when Brandon Gomes began warming in the bullpen Saturday. Normally, that wouldn’t be enough to begin a story about a Tampa Bay Rays game because Gomes often gets the call the starting pitcher is in trouble except for this: It was the first inning.
Rays manager Joe Maddon, after praising Cesar Ramos for pitching into the seventh inning during the first game of this road trip despite allowing nine runs (five earned) over the first three innings, took a decidedly different tact Saturday night with Ramos.
Ramos lasted only 10 batters and got only four outs against the Los Angeles Angels. He was charged with four runs and those were more than enough for Angels starter C.J. Wilson, who cruised to a 6-0 complete-game victory.
Ramos was upset about the quick hook, especially after settling down that night in Seattle and retiring the final 12 batters he faced.
“I thought I proved something last time,” Ramos said. “I’m capable of doing it, but, you know.”
When asked if he was surprised by the short outing, Ramos said, “Extremely surprised, and I don’t think I was the only one.”
When asked who else was surprised, Ramos said, “I can’t remember.”
Maddon defended his decision by saying the two starts should be examined under different circumstances.
The bullpen was gassed when the Rays began the road trip in Seattle, so Ramos had to eat the innings. The bullpen was rested Saturday. Plus, David Price is pitching today, so there is the potential for a short afternoon for the bullpen. The Rays are off Monday, so even if the bullpen sees a lot of action behind Price, everyone will get a day’s rest Monday.
“Under different circumstances, no off day, bullpen fatigued like last time, he would have pitched deeper into that game,” Maddon said. “I definitely would have let him ride a little bit, and who knows? He might have done the same thing. But, the way the planets were lined up, we had the ability to do what we did, so I’m not going to comment negatively about him. I don’t want to do that.”
Also, Maddon said, the Angels loaded their lineup with nine right-handed batters against the left-handed Ramos.
“Looking at the matchups, it was not really stellar for Cesar,” Maddon said.
There was more.
Maddon had nearly an all-right-handed lineup against the left-handed Wilson that was without the injured Ben Zobrist and Desmond Jennings, who left the team to attend to a death in his family. As a result, Maddon had rookie Kevin Kiermaier, called up to replace Jennings, in center field and Brandon Gomes in left because Sean Rodriguez had to play second base in place of Zobrist. With catcher Ryan Hanigan on the bench with a right hamstring injury, the light-hitting Jose Molina was behind the plate.
“I didn’t rally, and I didn’t see us scoring a whole lot of runs against Wilson, so I thought it was important to keep it where it was,” Maddon said.
The Rays were down 2-0 with two runners on in the second inning when Maddon called for Gomes. But Gomes allowed those two runners to score on a sacrifice fly by Mike Trout and a double by Albert Pujols.
Gomes allowed a two-run homer to Grant Green in the third inning for the final runs of the night.
Not that those add-runs mattered.
Wilson scattered five hits for his second career shutout. Both are against the Rays.
The Rays had one chance to get something going against Wilson, It came in the seventh inning when they loaded the bases on singles by Evan Longoria and Yunel Escobar and a walk to Logan Forsythe. But James Loney, the lone lefty in the Rays lineup, grounded into an inning-ending double play.
With Alex Cobb (strained left oblique) set to return this week from the disabled list, it’s easy to read between the lines of Maddon’s decision and assume Ramos will return to his role as long-man in the bullpen.
I don’t think about that stuff,” Ramos said. “For me it’s the task at hand and it goes start-by-start. Whatever they decide is their decision. Their decision is made if I do good or bad. That’s out of my control.”
Collin Cowgill singled off Ramos to open the first inning. Trout walked. Pujols popped up to Escobar. Howie Kendrick singled homed Cowgill. That’s when pitching coach Jim Hickey went to the mound and Gomes began throwing.
Ramos said he noticed the early activity in the bullpen.
“Yeah, when you’re facing the fourth hitter in the lineup and someone is getting up in the bullpen, going out for the second inning and someone is always warming up, it’s hard not to notice,” Ramos said.
He struck out Green to start the second then hit No. 9 batter Luis Jimenez with a pitch and allowed a single to Cowgill that was just beyond the reach of Escobar.
That’s when Maddon called for Gomes.
“It was breaking badly,” Maddon said. “I didn’t like the way it was starting out. I felt we could not give up a lot of runs to beat them.”