ANAHEIM, Calif. — Doubling down on their innovativeness and starting veteran reliever Sergio Romo for a second straight day worked out fine Sunday for the Rays.
It was the less-effective pitchers who followed, plus the ineffectiveness of their hitters to do much against Angels starter Shohei Ohtani that led to the 5-2 loss.
Romo did his part, getting four outs in facing the first six batters. It was what happened after he left that caused the problems, as neither Matt Andriese (who started the spiral by misplaying a comebacker), Jose Alvarado nor Anthony Banda were particularly sharp. Overall, Rays pitchers walked eight and threw only 83 of 158 pitches for strikes.
"We didn't do our best on the mound,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "The way we threw the ball today was really uncharacteristic, so many balls as opposed to strikes.''
Now starting, again … Sergio Romo
Romo welcomed the chance to start Saturday and Sunday in the first implementation of the Rays' new pitching plan, using a veteran reliever who matches up well as the game "opener" to get the first three-six outs.
"Definitely outside the box, definitely came out of leftfield, and I think it was really cool,'' the right-hander said "It's cool for the game of baseball from the strategic side. It's unheard of. It's a lot of fun to be a part of the unheard of, the abnormal. And it turned out to be pretty good for us.''
Angels INF Zack Cozart didn't agree, telling reporters: "It was weird. … It's bad for baseball, in my opinion. … It's spring training. That's the best way to explain it.''
Romo was considered the first pitcher to start on consecutive days since Zack Greinke for Milwaukee on July 7-8, 2012. But that comes with an asterisk since Greinke was ejected from the first game after throwing only four pitches, so that's why he started the next day.
Going back further, if you skip past Texas' C.J. Wilson starting two straight days in 2012 when the first game had a lengthy rain delay, and Texas' Aaron Myette going back to back in 2002 after, like Greinke, coming back following a first-inning ejection, a case could be made, based on baseball-reference.com data, that Romo is the first to do what he did since Oakland's Steve McCatty in 1980, who got beat up in leaving in the second on April 14, then came back the next day and worked 8⅓.
Romo also was the second pitcher in Rays history to start consecutive games, as RHP James Shields in 2009 started the last game before the All-Star break and the first after. And he was the second Rays pitcher to start on zero days rest, as last year RHP Erasmo Ramirez pitched the 15th inning in a game at Minnesota and started as planned the next night in Texas.
INF Daniel Robertson put on an impressive show in his first series at hometown Angel Stadium, going 5-for-10 with five walks before Sunday's 0-for-4 finale, making snazzy defensive plays, hitting a solo homer and a grand slam. "A pretty special moment being here,'' Robertson said. Even better, of course, was getting to do so in front of hundreds of relatives (including his maternal grandparents) and friends seeing him play in the majors for the first time, and getting to visit with some of them Saturday night at the nearby JT Schmid's Restaurant & Brewery. Robertson also was thinking a lot about someone who wasn't there — his dad, Don, who died of cancer in September 2013. "Those couple balls I hit out, something took over control of my body. The barehanded play. He was here with me, for sure. There's no doubt about it,'' Robertson said. "I grew up with him taking me to these games. I felt his presence here, for sure. As usual.''
Based on what his Rays didn't do (getting only six hits) and what they said during his 7⅔ innings, Cash said RHP Shohei Ohtani was a quality opponent. The manager made a high-praise comparison to the Astros' Justin Verlander in the way Ohtani increased velocity on his fastball, and he noted the effectiveness of his splitter, as Wilson Ramos became the first batter to get a hit off him in 44 tries. "Really impressive,'' Cash said. "Hearing feedback guys came back (from the plate) with, obviously it's a tough at-bat.''
• OF Johnny Field had the best day offensively with a homer and a double off Shohei Ohtani.
• DH C.J. Cron's streak of reaching base ended at 25 games.
• Former Rays INF Akinori Iwamura was the studio analyst in Japan for the NHK broadcast of the game.