He deserved it. The new 38-year-old catcher for the Rays got the pie in the fact he deserved after delivering an 8th inning PINCH HIT GRAND SLAM that put the game out of reach and allowed the Rays to beat the Toronto Blue Jays 5-1.
There were alot of elements that went into making this game a successful one for the home team, but the biggest moment had to come in that fateful 8th inning when Gregg Zaun almost non-chalantly took a Brandon League fastball over the right field wall.
And just like that, the Rays have won 2 in a row.
The Rays went into the bottom of the 8th after watching one of the best 3rd Basemen in the league make a diving play on a hard hit ball from Rod Barajas.
Evan Longoria must have gotten his guys fired up.
The Rays loaded the bases with one out against reliever Brandon League, whose split finger fastball and 96 mph heater were really getting the Rays’ hitters off stride.
Gabe Gross pinch hit with his robust .480 career average with the bases loaded (you read that right–I did a double take too!) and proceeded to strike out.
That brought up pinch hitter Zaun, who used to play with League when they were both with Toronto.
The Rays’ new catcher worked the count full before uncoiling a very leisurely swing on an inside fastball and sending the ball out of the ballpark.
The Trop erupted!
It was unbelievable.
You couldn’t tell anything special had happened by looking at Zaun’s face, though, as his placid countenance never changed throughout his jog around the bases and entrance to the raucous dugout.
It was something, though. Maybe that spark a beleaguered team had been waiting for.
The Blue Jays then hit BJ Upton, which caused a stir and invoked a warning from the home plate umpire. Cito Gaston did not appreciate the quick trigger and came out to argue a little bit, but nobody was ejected.
Joe Maddon was also upset about the play and wanted to get in his 2 cents.
It’ll be interesting to see if anybody remembers this HBP next week in Toronto when these two teams get back together.
Matt Garza did not make things easy on himself today. Not at all.
He went only 5 1/3 innings, throwing 103 pitches. His line was solid:
5 1/3 IP, 1 R, 8 H, 2 BB, 7 K
However, he found himself in dire straits several times throughout the game. He left 2 on in the 1st inning in which he threw 30 pitches. He left the bases loaded in the 3rd. And he left 2 on in the 4th.
He was downright lucky he did not give up more than 1 run. Lucky to be backed up by solid defenders, that is.
BJ Upton helped to keep the game scoreless in the 3rd when he uncorked a solid throw to home plate from center field on a sac fly that should have scored a run. He also made a great throw to home that beat the runner, but did not get Blue Jay out because of a solid collision at home plate.
Garza deserved the win, though. Hopefully this will build his confidence for his next outing against the Texas Rangers.
Weird Play at the Plate
As mentioned, Dioner Navarro got bulldozed by Lyle Overbay on a play at the plate in the 5th inning.
Upton’s throw arrived just as Overbay did, and while the Rays catcher did not drop the ball, the collision allowed Overbay to score the run.
It was weird, though.
Usually you see catcher and runner collide and somebody go flying somewhere.
That didn’t happen. Instead, the guys hit each other and neither one moved. They just hit and stayed where they were, like both hit a brick wall.
These are during the big hit.
These are right after they hit. It looks like Overbay is still sliding, but he’s just stunned on the ground, not moving. Navi is stunned standing up, not moving.
Navi was off balance just enough that he couldn’t reach down to make the tag. Overbay, on his back, simply reached over and touched the plate for the safe call.
Navi then hobbled around a little bit. He stayed in the game, but I’m a little worried.
Like I said, it was weird.
Three Keys to the Game
1–Rays’ hitters have to get to this kid right away. NOPE The Rays only scored 1 run against the Toronto starter before he left the game.
2–Run, run, run. NOPE The Rays did not steal any bases in the game. That was a big reason why the Blue Jays’ starter pitched so well.
3–Keep hitting. YEP and NOPE Only 2 doubles and 1 homer against 7 singles. I wanted to see the Rays manufacture some runs today, but they scored 4/5 of their runs after a grand slam.
1/2 out of 3=RAYS WIN?
WEIRD, BUT WE’LL TAKE IT!
Wild Card Update
The Rays’ weekend was not only successful because they won the series against the Blue Jays. It proved to be successful when looking at the thing foremost in the mind of all Rays players and all Rays fans.
We picked up two games on the Red Sox!
However, with the Rangers leapfrogging the Sox for the wild card lead, we, in effect, picked up only 1 1/2 games.
Either way, we’ll take it!
Thanks to the Texas Rangers’ potent lineup, the Rays find themselves 3 games behind the Sox and 3 1/2 games behind the Rangers.
Looking ahead, the schedule seems to favor the Rays immenesely:
Rays: 3 games against the Orioles
Red Sox: 3 games with Toronto
Rangers: 4 games with Minnesota
If we are going to make a move, this is the week.
The Rays get a day off tomorrow before fighting with the Birds of Baltimore.
This was a nice series for our Boys in Blue. Taking 2 of 3 after losing to the best pitcher in baseball is a nice way to get through a weekend.
Now we have to see them do the same or better against the O’s.