Struggles show Rays need Roe back in top form

June 19th, 2019

NEW YORK -- The Rays have talked about the importance of having return to his 2018 form, but the right-hander’s struggles continued on Tuesday in a 6-3 loss to the Yankees at Yankee Stadium.

After Ryne Stanek allowed one run in his 1 1/3 innings to open the game, the Rays’ offense quickly responded with a run in the second inning on a Mike Zunino RBI single, then a second run in the third on an Avisail Garcia RBI single for a 2-1 lead.

With the Rays ahead, Ryan Yarbrough was able to limit the Yankees to just one hit over his three innings, retiring nine of the 10 hitters he faced. He needed just 42 pitches to get through his outing.

Yarbrough said that he wasn’t necessarily surprised when manager Kevin Cash took him out of the game because he saw Roe warming up in the bullpen. Yarbrough added that he understood why Cash made the move when he did.

• Box score

“It’s not really my call on that, obviously,” Yarbrough said. “Once I got Didi [Gregorius] out and saw that he came out, I kind of understood the thought process. It’s not the first time that this happens, and it’s not going to be the last time, especially during the opener. You’ve kind of seen it with how I did last year, and sometimes you see it with guys this year. It’s just all part of it.”

The thought process was for Cash to turn to the bullpen in order to preserve the one-run lead against a powerful Yankees lineup. New York had eight right-handed hitters in the lineup, which is why Cash turned to Roe with one out in the fifth inning. The move, however, didn’t pan out, a theme for Roe so far this season.

“I know it’s a difficult decision,” Cash said. “It’s a fair question, just basically where Yarbs had gotten us one time through the lineup. They’re heavy right-handed; I thought it was a good spot for Chaz to come in. Obviously, I know that it didn’t work out the way we would have liked.”

The Yankees proceeded to connect on four straight singles before Roe was able to record an out, making it a 4-2 game. However, the Yankees didn’t get a lot of particularly hard contact off Roe, as three of the five knocks were hit with an exit velocity of 82 mph or lower.

“I felt good,” Roe said. “I threw some pitches that were out of the zone, and they were just able to get enough wood on it for it to fall in. Things just didn’t go my way tonight.”

Once Roe began to struggle in the fifth, the Rays had right-hander Oliver Drake warming up in the bullpen, just in case Roe was unable to finish out the inning. But Cash said that he wanted to get Roe through the frame.

“It was Roe’s inning,” Cash said. “Had we kept it [to] one [run] or tied before [Aaron] Hicks or someone would come up, we had Drake ready to go. But he was throwing strikes, and it was just one of those things. They had good at-bats.”

The three runs allowed by Roe pushed his ERA to 5.14, which is the highest by any qualifying member of the Tampa Bay bullpen this season.

Roe was one of the most impactful relievers in the Rays’ bullpen last season, but the right-hander hasn’t been able to find a consistent rhythm and has struggled with his command, especially on his signature slider. Last season, Roe had a whiff percentage of 34.9 on his slider, but that’s down to 25 percent this season. On Tuesday, of Roe’s 28 pitches, 21 of them were sliders.

“He threw a ton of sliders today, and what we’ve seen in the past is strike-to-ball slider,” Cash said. “He might have left a couple sliders in the zone, but it’s such a good pitch that when they reel off four or five hits in a row, you kind of scratch your head a little bit because we know how effective that pitch has been for him and for us.”

In six appearances in June, Roe has given up eight runs in only 4 2/3 innings for a 15.43 ERA this month. With Tuesday’s loss, Tampa Bay has now lost 14 of its last 15 series against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium and dropped to 12-33 in its last 45 games in the Bronx.

“I think you can salvage a series here by winning one game,” Zunino said, looking ahead to Wednesday afternoon, when the Rays will start ace Blake Snell against CC Sabathia. “We’ve played some really close games with them. We’re just a hit here and there short. I think we’ll continue to come out tomorrow and hopefully have some quality at-bats. We’ve got Blake on the mound tomorrow, so we feel really good.”