ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Since Statcast began measuring exit velocities in 2015, it has categorized anything that leaves the bat at 95 mph or higher as a hard-hit ball.
Four of the first five balls the Tampa Bay Rays put in play against Dodgers starter Noah Syndergaard on Friday night qualified. The first time through the lineup, four Rays hit balls with exit velocities over 100 mph. Yandy Diaz’s solo home run in the fourth inning left the bat at 100.1 mph – only the seventh-hardest hit ball against Syndergaard in the first four innings.
The Rays used all of that hard contact to score in each of the first four innings on their way to handing the Dodgers a 9-3 defeat at Tropicana Field.
On the bright side, Syndergaard did retire eight Rays in order following Diaz’s home run, allowing Dodgers manager Dave Roberts to sit on his hands long enough for Syndergaard to get through six innings and not further tax the bullpen. He is the first Dodgers starter to make it through six innings since Julio Urias went seven two weeks ago.
But quantity didn’t imply quality. Syndergaard was tagged for eight hits and allowed six runs in his six innings. He wasn’t fooling the Rays on Friday – and the .298 batting average against him this season indicates he hasn’t fooled many other hitters either.
The Dodgers might have been the ones who were fooled. Their $13 million gamble that the one-time All-Star might at least be better than replacement level as a fifth starter is not looking so good now that Syndergaard is sporting a 6.27 ERA – and injuries have essentially made him the Dodgers’ third starter.
Only two starting pitchers with at least 50 innings (Syndergaard has thrown 47-1/3) have higher ERAs – Jordan Lyles of the Kansas City Royals (7.15) and Lance Lynn of the Chicago White Sox (6.28).
Justin Bruihl was roughed up for three runs in his two innings of relief behind Syndergaard.
The Dodgers’ offense couldn’t keep up.
Will Smith drove in a run with an RBI single in the first inning and J.D. Martinez did the same in the third. Those two, batting third and fourth in the lineup, were on base six times in the game. But the next four hitters in the Dodgers’ lineup – Max Muncy, Miguel Vargas, James Outman and Miguel Rojas – went a combined 1 for 15 against the Rays’ bullpen game parade of seven pitchers.
After going 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position during their loss to the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday, the Dodgers were 2 for 12 in those situations before Chris Taylor doubled inside the third-base bag in the eighth inning, driving in Vargas with their third run.
More to come on this story.
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