The Rays' primary problem has been hitting, evidenced by Sunday's game being the sixth of their first nine in which they scored only one run (and fifth with only four hits).
But they had another problem that was also a key factor in Sunday's 6-1 loss to the White Sox, and that was a poor starting pitching performance from right-hander Jeff Niemann.
The tall Texan allowed two homers in the first, two more runs in the second (though a dropped fly ball figured in) and two walks to start the third, leading to another run.
"He was not good today," manager Joe Maddon said. "A lot of things were up in the zone. ... They jumped on him early; he was unable to make an adjustment, I didn't see it getting any better for him right there."
Niemann had a similar problem in his first start, but made the adjustment. Maddon didn't want to wait past 46 pitches Sunday, and said he feels the issue is mechanical, and also that Niemann hasn't been his same dominant self since before going on the DL last August with a shoulder strain.
"We've got to get Jeff right, got to get him back to where he had been," Maddon said.
But Niemann did not think he was really off.
"I felt great out there," Niemann said. "A few balls were mistakes they hit, a few good pitches they hit. That's kind of what it was today. I felt great today. Everything was sharp. I had good life on the fastball. The first inning, one first-pitch home run and one I left over the plate they got. Really looking at it, I felt like we were throwing the ball well. Minus those two walks in a row, whatever. Weren't really out there long enough to get a true feel for it."
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