What is it with Florida teams and perfect games?
For the twentieth time in the history of this amazing game, a perfect game has been thrown.
For the third time in two seasons, a perfect game has been thrown against a team from the great state of Florida.
Roy Halladay put together what is tantamount to absolute perfection tonight when he took down the Florida Marlins in 27-up-27-down fashion. I know that my friend at Phillies Outside must still be celebrating, as well he should.
But why does this keep happening to us? And by “us” I mean the baseball denizens of Florida?
The Rays went through it against Mark Buehrle and the White Sox last season before enduring the pain of another perfect at the hands of the Oakland A’s and Dallas Braden. And now the Florida Marlins know what we “northerners” felt each time.
Of course, when the Rays took the field each time there was no real thought that a perfect game could be thrown at them, all due respect to Buehrle and Braden.
Halladay, though, is one of those rare pitchers who has no-hit stuff almost every night he toes the mound. A perfect game isn’t as earth shattering in that case.
But that takes NOTHING away from the amazing feat of the Doc.
Thank goodness he’s on my fantasy team.
And hopefully the teams from Florida have paid their dues with regards to perfect games…
The first post I put out a few days ago was only to rate the trades that occurred on Friday, the trading deadline day.
However, I got a few e-mails asking me why I left out one trade or the other. They got me to thinking….why NOT go through the notable trades from the trading deadline and just before?
I enjoyed arguing with some of you through comments and e-mail about what you thought of some of the trades. Good times…
This post might be more for me than anybody since I LOVE trades and how they affect teams. I think they are something that is utilized by baseball better than any other sport and is part of the reason why this game is so grand.
Again, I’m primarily looking at the team that is the bigger part of the deal, though in some cases I grade both teams.
So without further adieu….here is part deux.
Deal: Reds trade Edwin Encarcion et al to the Blue Jays for Scott Rolen
Analysis: It seemed that Encarnacion never really got it going in Cincinnati. He hit a load of dingers last year, but the average the last few years was never really what Dusty Baker wanted (.209 in 2009). I don’t see him being the 3B of the future for the Jays, unfortunately. However, from what I’ve read about the two young pitchers who were also sent to the Jays, the real value might be there. These two pitchers might make an impact on Toronto this season, which would make the Jays winners here. The Reds get an aging 3B who might be able to help out a little next year. While the Reds play in a strong offensive park, the fact is that Rolen is 34 and has seen his best years pass him by.
Grade: Reds–C+ Jays–B+
Deal: Jerry Hairston, Jr. to the Yankees for a Single-A catcher
Analysis: This just doesn’t seem like a big deal to me. Of course, the Rays are notorious for making the “not a big deal” trades that end up getting them a bunch of wins. Maybe the Yankees have been taking notes. They already went into the Rays’ playbook to make a deal for Eric Hinske earlier in the year, after all. Hairston, Jr. has speed and versatility. For those reasons he might be a nice guy to have on a team. A National League team. I don’t see him helping the Yanks out too much. Then again, New York didn’t give up much, either.
Deal: Brewers deal to get Claudio Vargas from the Dodgers
Analysis: The Brewers needed a starter. A good starter. They needed somebody to help them contend with the Cubs, Cardinals, and, suddenly, the Astros. Instead they dealt for a bullpen guy in LA who they actually had not that long ago and dumped because of his ineffectiveness. They didn’t give up much, but they didn’t get much, either.
Deal: Cubs get John Grabow and Tom Gorzelanny from Pirates
Analysis: This is a case where I think both teams won out. The Pirates got a young hurler in Kevin Hart and a strong piece of the bullpen in Jose Ascanio. The Cubs needed a starter in Gorzelanny (he’ll start this week) to fill in for Ted Lilly and they needed a strong lefty in the ‘pen in Grabow who will take the place of the Tommy John-bit Neal Cotts. Grabow will complement Sean Marshall in the bullpen and add some stability to a shakey group.
Grade: A for both teams (especially because of the mad kung fu skills of Gorzelanny)
Deal: Royals get Josh Anderson from the Tigers
Analysis: This guy was got for cash. That’s it. Typically these deals are non-issues. This one fits in with that characterization. So why are we talking about it?
Grade: Who cares?
Deal: The Giants get Freddy Sanchez from the Pirates
Analysis: The Pirates are becoming to be old hat in these trade discussions. With that said, the Bucs are doing the right thing. Sanchez was scheduled to make $8 mill next year. That’s too rich for a team with so many holes. I was hoping that the Rays would get this guy–he’s one of my faves–so that they could move Ben Zobrist’s rocket arm and huge bat to right field. Alas, not to be. This move will probably lead to the Giants releasing Rich Aurelia and his salary. Sanchez will help the Giants. The Pirates got a pitcher in Tim Alderson who will help them–in the future.
Deal: Phillies land Cliff Lee from Indians
Analysis: C’mon, do we have to talk about this one? I was hoping the Rays might get active here, and they were, but not as active as the Series champs. They got Lee, gave up some guys they’ll miss, and promptly saw him throw a complete game shutout. ‘Nuff said.
Deal: Mariners get Jack Wilson from Pirates for a bunch o’ guys
Analysis: The M’s got the shortstop they had hoped they had in Yuniesky Betancourt. When they realized Betancourt was a flop defensively, they shipped him to Kansas City–where he’s struggled. Wilson is a solid piece of the future puzzle for the M’s and will get them some wins in the future. The guys the Pirates got will be helpful, but not too helpful right away. Ronny Cedeno is flopping right now and catcher Jeff Clement was not sparking the way the Mariners wanted. I thought that the addition of Clement might lead to the Bucs moving Ryan Doumit–to the Rays. Not so. Oh well.
Grade: Mariners–B+ Pirates–B
Deal: White Sox get Mark Kotsay, Red Sox get Brian Anderson
Analysis: No doubt, the White Sox won this trade–right now. The White Stockings got a premiere pinch hitter who can play almost any corner position. He is a veteran who can fit in immediately with is new team and pay dividends as they push for October. The Red Stockings got a supreme underachiever in Anderson. He might develop, though, into a guy who might be the utility outfielder Rocco Baldelli is supposed to be. With JD Drew on his way out (c’mon, folks, he’s hurt, like, ALL THE TIME) this might be a good add–next year.
Grade: White Sox–B+ Red Sox–B+ (potentially)
Deal: Giants get Ryan Garko for Single-A pitcher
Analysis: Garko was a fan fave in Cleveland, but he was going to be up for big money in the off season. So he was shipped. He was taking playing time away from guys the Indians really wanted to see and they did not view him as a piece of the future. He has a gift for being offensive–in a good way–and should help the Giants offense get going. The guy Cleveland got will be good two years from now. That’s something to be happy about in Clevelend–and there isn’t much these days. However, the move will give more AB’s to superstar-in-the-making Matt LaPorta
Deal: Matt Holliday goes to St. Louis
Analysis: Waste of time to talk about. He’s hitting .529!!!
Grade: A+ (and it sickens me to say that)
Sorry if the pics got a little weird there at times. I’m as distracted by the strange moments of our favorite sport as anybody.
I think that runs down most of the more notable trades that have occurred the last few weeks (and a couple of not-so-notable trades).
I think that this time of year is the most captivating of any sport out there. Teams are fighting for division titles. Others are scrambling for wildcard berths. Franchises are deciding whether to buy or sell. Squads are scouting for both this and next year–and with a do-or-die attitude.
It’s just great.
And the waiver-wire trades are going to get going soon too. Teams have to make waiver deals before August 30th if they want that guy to be eligible for the post season.
And the countdown begins.
And if anybody asks me about the Julio Lugo deal……..
Ah, well. The Rays did not make any moves at the trade deadline. Despite two glaring needs, the team was unable to do that trade that might have helped to shore up some weaknesses for the final playoff push.
I don’t know that moves HAD to be made. This team stood pat last year and was able to utilize the huge talent it had to make it to October. This year’s iteration of the Rays is not much different, and should be able to ride its talent–both here in the majors and in the minors–to a division crown or wildcard berth.
It ain’t gonna be easy, though.
Even though I can’t look at any moves the Rays made, I wanted to take a look at the multitude of moves made yesterday and grade how each move should help each team.
Deal: Red Sox trade for Victor Martinez
Analysis: Jason Varitek has not been what the Sox have needed this year. Sure, he’s led the team as an old grizzled veteran should, but little more than that. Add in the fact that Mike Lowell’s hip is not long for this season and you have a need at catcher and first base. Well, the Red Sox filled those needs with the addition of Martinez. One of the more coveted players available at the deadline, the versatile Martinez might just be the piece that complete the playoff puzzle for the Sox
Deal: White Sox trade lots of young arms for Jake Peavy
Analysis: Initially this looks like a great deal. The White Sox were able to rekindle interest in moving Peavy late Friday (interest that waned early in the season) and finally consummated the deal. Why Peavy would want to pitch in hitter-friendly US Cellular Field in a new league is beyond me, but he had his reasons to waive his no trade clause. The Sox got a pitcher who is not ready to pitch now and might not be ready for several more weeks. The Padres got a plethora of arms that should help them long term.
Deal: Twins acquire Orlando Cabrera
Analysis: I don’t like Cabrera. Let’s get that out of the way. I don’t like the way he tried to make some lame point in the playoffs last year against the Rays. I am glad Grant Balfour struck him out, though. Why do I say all this pointless blather? Because this is a perfect move for the Twins. And if I’m saying that with the way I feel, then you know it is good. The Twinkies needed a strong shortstop, and they got it. He will hit 2nd in the lineup ahead of Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer and will help that offense really get going. And his defense will be welcome in the Metrodome–especially if you saw the bumbling of Brendon Harris in last night’s game.
Deal: Tigers get Jarrod Washburn
Analysis: Washburn was not going to be able to help the Mariners make the playoffs this year. And he was going to ask for more money than the M’s would be willing to pay him after the end of this season. For them, this is a great move. For the Tigers, this move makes sense. They will now have a solid 1-3 in the rotation. Plus, the move enabled them to keep pace with the moves the Sox and Twins made within the division. But can Washburn keep up his torrid pitching? I don’t think so.
Deal: Braves and Red Sox exchange 1B: Adam Laroche and Casey Kotchman
Analysis: The Braves have fallen out of love with the guy they acquired for Mark Teixeira not that long ago. Why? They want more home runs. Kotchman has just 6 this year. But the guy is hitting .283 and plays a decent 1B. Laroche, on the other hand, struggles to hit .250 and only has 13 dingers this year. Each guy has only around 40 RBIs. This is kind of a non-deal–much like the Jeff Francoeur for Ryan Church deal earlier. What are the Braves thinking?
Grade: Braves–C Red Sox–B
Deal: Marlins trade for the Nats’ Nick Johnson
Analysis: Everybody seems to love Nick Johnson. I don’t get it. He’s a marginal hitter, and ok fielder, and he might actually be slower than our own Pat Burrell. What’s the deal? When the Marlins’ Hanley Ramirez was told of the trade, he reportedly pumped his fist and yelled “YES!” Why? This might help the Marlins shore up their infield by moving Jorge Cantu to 3B and allowing Johnson to man 1B, but that’s about it. But, the Fish did not give up much for him so…
Deal: Rockies get Joe Beimel from the Nats
Analysis: Make fun of the Pirates all you want, at least it seems they are getting a direction in mind for the franchise. The Nationals don’t have a clue. They dumped a solid lefty bullpen guy in Beimel to get two youngsters–one of which, I read, is recovering from surgery. Ugh. This deal should help the Rox, but not that much.
Deal: Dodgers send minor leaguer 3B Josh Bell to O’s for closer George Sherrill
Analysis: I’m looking at both sides of the coin on this one. The Dodgers acquire a solid closer who has been more and more consistent as the season has gone on. Thus, right now the Dodgers have one of the more potent 8th- and 9th-inning guys out there. The Orioles got a guy I hadn’t heard much about, but about whom I read is something special at 3B. Melvin Mora won’t be long in an O’s uni, so getting Bell, who might get a callup sometime next year, plays out perfectly for Baltimore. This team is going to be pretty exciting come next season.
Grade: D’s–B+ O’s–B
As with any trade that went down in the last few days, we will have to wait and see how things go. Of course, the Cardinals have gotten immediate returns on their move as Matt Holliday has TORN IT UP since his arrival in St. Louis.
Lots of the deals above included young minor leaguers. Their value is not entirely quanitfiable just yet, but it may be sooner rather than later.
Either way, Friday was lots of fun.
Even if the Rays did do nothing.
(Not an actual portrait)
I was laying around watching Sportscenter this morning, as I can often be found doing most mornings, and found myself feeling nauseous.
No, it wasn’t because of the ubiquitous coverage of White Sox Mark Buehrle’s perfect game yesterday that happened to occur against my beloved Rays. (The coverage was, of course, warranted, by the way…I just am sick of seeing my guys as the team that was no-hit)
No, it wasn’t because of Brett Favre’s constant whining about whether he should come back to play for the Vikings or not (Who isn’t getting sick of that? Geez! I used to like the guy! Now I just want him to go away!)
It was because of a simple poll question the geniuses at the sports network formulated for the fans to vote upon.
In light of the amazing catch that Dewayne Wise made in the top of the 9th inning of Buehrle’s perfect game yesterday (it was quite a catch–dammit!) ESPN decided to give a list of the greatest catches in major league history and ask, “Which of these catches was the best catch?”
Of course I was giddy because I was going to see my guy Carl Crawford honored with a spot on the list because of his exceptional catch in this year’s All-Star Game that helped to preserve the AL’s victory and secure home field advantage of the American League team in the World Series.
It was going to be there and I was going to hear the ESPN (I’m pronouncing it “ess-pin”) anchors gush about how amazing it was.
Catch #1 was Dewayne Wise’s amazing catch.
I threw up a little in my mouth, but was otherwise ok.
Catch #2 was Kirby Puckett’s catch against the wall in the 1991 World Series that they say helped the Twins to win it all that year.
Catch #3 was the black and white filmed Willie Mays World Series catch that we all know and love (and have imitated) way back before anybody can remember.
That’s a good one. I think that is THE best catch ever. I’m ok.
Catch #4 was Torii Hunter’s catch to rob Barry Bonds of a home run in the 2002 All-Star Game.
The game was an exhibition back then, so who cares, but whatever. It was good, I guess.
Catch #5 was Endy Chavez’s catch in the 2006 NLCS against the Cardinals to rob a home run.
A catch that did not save the game because the Mets still lost. So who gives a crap?
And that was it.
I was waiting for Catch #6, Carl Crawford’s game-preserving catch against the NL in the 2009 All-Star game that allowed the AL to clinch home field advantage in the World Series.
Where was Catch #6!? Where was it!?
Apparently, the masterminds who create the extremely varied and always fresh shows such as blabfest “First Take,” blabfest “Around the Horn,” blabfest “Pardon the Interruption,” and the blabfest “SportsNation” (what other blabfests have I left out?) forgot that one of the best catches just occurred a few weeks ago!
I was livid!
As a Rays fan you have had to accept certain things over the years.
#1–Your team will be ridiculed as being one of the worst ever.
#2–Your dad will call your team the best AAA team in the majors.
#3–People will not go to the games during the week.
#4–Fans of the opposing team will make up more of the audience at a game than your own team’s fans.
#5–The media will ignore you, except to mention thing #1.
But all that changed with last year’s Rays team. The World Series Rays team. The AL Champion Rays team.
All that changed, right?
Well, all but thing #5.
ESPN has been notorious for allowing the baseball team in Tampa Bay to go without notice. If they play a team in Los Angeles (Dodgers only), New York, Boston, Chicago, or Philadelphia, then they will get plenty of press, but only because of their association with aforementioned team.
But on their own, the Rays are typically pushed to the end of the Sportscenter program. I can remember many a time where the Rays were actually not even mentioned in the show because they ran out of time. I can remember many a time on “Baseball Tonight” the Rays receiving barely a sentence of acknowledgement from the mouth of Karl Ravich before moving on to the more marketable teams.
I was able to overlook much of this over the years because I guess I figured the Rays deserved it a little bit. They were bad for a long time. That’s hard to forget right away.
But boy oh boy ESPN doesn’t care about the success in Tampa Bay, they care about making sure they pander to the fans of the “big five” baseball markets mentioned above. Because God forbid they don’t smooch the backsides of those teams.
So I walked away from the tv. Angry and incredulous, I made a bowl of Cap’n Crunch. The Cap’n makes all the world’s ills disappear.
Then I accidentally turned on Sportscenter exactly 1 hour later than when I saw it the first time and SAW THE SAME STORY AGAIN!!!
So I stormed like a pouting child to my keyboard and punished it by pounding out my feelings into “words.”
The nausea returned and the frustration boiled over. Almost lost the Cap’n!
Carl, I think that many fans in the country know that your catch belonged on a list of best catches well ahead of a catch a guy made in an All-Star Game when nothing counted and a catch a guy made in a playoff game his team lost and nobody remembers.
Who cares that it wasn’t against the biggest steroid user or for the second team in New York?
We in the oft forgotten Tampa Bay area know your catch garnered you the All-Star Game MVP this year and will help the AL team (the Rays) beat the NL team in the World Series.
Too bad we aren’t one of the “big 5” markets ESPN loves so much.
They probably would have pushed Willie off the list if we were–who cares about catches that really matter, right?
Just to preface this post to eliminate any confusion, I started typing this while the game was in the 8th inning and things did not look good for my guys. I ran with it until the end of the game. After the game was over, I took some deep breaths, knocked my head against the wall a little bit, and typed the rest of this post. Enjoy?
The Rays and White Sox have just completed the top of the 8th inning with Sox hurler Mark Buehrle refusing to give up a hit. Or a walk. Or a baserunner.
He has a no-no/perfect game going as they head into the bottom of the 8th and it doesn’t look good for the Rays.
They will sent Gabe Kapler, Michel Hernandez, and Jason Bartlett to the plate in the top of the 9th with the hopes of avoiding being no hit.
If the home plate umpire Eric Cooper continues to give Buehrle 5 inches off the outside part of the plate I don’t see how the Rays will be able to break up this impressive performance by Buehrle.
(Incidently, Cooper also called the no hitter that Buehrle threw against Texas in 2007, so…)
I’ll let you know how the inning progresses when we get there.
Top of the 9th (“Live”)
Chicago has moved Podsednik to left and put Wise in center to bolster the defense for Buehrle.
I’m nervous. Here we go…
Gabe Kapler–HE GAVE IT A RIDE TO LEFT FIELD!! IT WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A HOME RUN BUT DEWAYNE WISE JUST ROBBED A HOME RUN! OH MY GAWD!!!
Michel Hernandez–just struck out.
Jason Bartlett–Ground out to SS.
Perfect Game is Done!!!!
Much respect to Mark Buehrle on the PERFECT GAME!
(Below: Buehrle with his wife and baby boy)
Quick Game Recap
Well, now that I’ve had a few minutes to come in off the ledge and get my wits about me, I just have a few things to say about today’s game.
Mark Buehrle deserved the spoils of his labor today. He pitched an amazing game, working both sides of the plate and keeping the Rays hitters off balance. It is tough to give too many kudos to the guy, but he earned his perfect game today.
I would be remiss, however, if I ignored the fact that home plate umpire Eric Cooper was part of helping to keep the Rays off balance today. As I said earlier, Cooper was giving Buehrle (and Kazmir, by the way) 3-5 inches off the outside part of the plate. Many “strikes” were just terrible calls.
Good pitchers realize that and take advantage of that. Kazmir did not. Buehrle did. I’m not taking anything away from the ChiSox pitcher. He did what a really good pitcher such as him should do.
Good hitters also adjust. The Rays did not. They did not adjust their stances by moving closer to the plate to take away that outside edge nor did they protect against that part of the plate.
Buehrle struck out 6 Rays hitters. What was more frustrating in this game was that he induced ground ball after ground ball to Alexei Ramirez at short, meaning that the pull-happy right handed Rays hitters were trying to pull everything to the left side of the infield.
The Rays had not been no-hit since 2002 when the OTHER Sox did it to them: Boston’s Derek Lowe.
As I said in an earlier post: I HATE LOSING TO THE SOX. WHITE, RED, DOESN’T MATTER!
I might save this for a future post, but it is incredibly upsetting that the Rays thought they had upgraded their offense against left handed pitching in the offseason. It was their Achilles heel last year and really hurt them in the World Series against the Phillies.
So they got Gabe Kapler and Pat Burrell.
Wow, that worked.
The Rays are now 16-21 against lefties this year. Terrible.
The Road Ain’t Gettin’ Any Easier
Tampa Bay will head to Toronto today to prepare for a weekend series against the Blue Jays. Who’s waiting for them there?
Ordinarily I would go into the series with confidence, considering the Rays are 2-0 against him this year. But coming off a series such as this one, and a perfect game to boot, I am not as thrilled.
Then it will be the New York Yankees for 3 at the start of next week at the Trop. That is going to be a very difficult series as the Yanks have just dominated teams over the last week plus.
But it isn’t supposed to be easy. We’ll see what the Rays have got in the tank the next 6 games.
The AL East, and the Rays’ place in it, will certainly come into more focus over the next week or so.
Let’s hope the Rays won’t be left behind.
Finally the White Sox had a closer who could end a game with little fanfare. This time it was Matt Thornton. And although the Rays tried to make it more interesting in the bottom of the 9th, they came up one hit/wild pitch short.
C’est la vie.
This time it was not the Rays who mounted a big comeback late in the game. Tonight they got a taste of their own medicine from the Sox.
“Big Game” Let Down
James Shields deserved better. Once again, he turned in a gem of a performance only to have the offense fail to show up. Shields pitched 6 2/3 innings of 4-hit, 2-run baseball. He struck out 4 and had his changeup working well tonight.
However, as is the case in almost every Shields start, the offense was unable to give James more than 3 runs. He entered the game as one of the least-supported pitchers in the league, he left the game the same way.
In 9 of Shields’ 21 starts this year the Rays have score more than 3 runs. Less than half the time! In 6 of those 9 games the Rays have won and in 4 of those 6 wins the W has gone to Shields.
He has alot to complain about.
A pitcher who is 6-6 with a sub-4.00 ERA getting run support like that might need special help to deal with those issues. Easily Shields could be a 10-game winnner. Instead his record stands at .500.
A Craptastic 7th Inning
The Rays entered the 7th with a 3-1 lead. They left it down 4-3. What happened? Tough to imagine.
The Rays used 5 pitchers total in the frame, 4 of them in relief of Shields. Three of those 5 pitchers failed to record an out! Yep, you read that right.
THREE GUYS ENTERED THE GAME IN THAT INNING AND DID NOT GET A GUY OUT.
Shields got the first two outs of the inning. Then reliable Randy Choate entered and gave up a fluke hit that All-Star SS Jason Bartlett made worse by throwing the ball into the stands. That put runners at the corners with 2 outs.
No problem, right? Wrong.
Chad Bradford entered the game. He felt a twinge in his back and had to be removed. That brought on Dan Wheeler.
“Wheels” for short.
Wheels got two quick strikes on free-swinging Alexei Ramirez. Then Dan threw strike three on the outside corner. Only problem was the umpire didn’t call it. The Rays dugout was not happy about it and clearly Wheels was rattled.
Next pitch was lined into center.
Right at BJ Upton.
Right over BJ Upton and to the wall.
It was a catchable fly, but BJ turned it into a game-tying triple. Jermaine Dye blooped a single into center to give the Sox the lead and that was how it ended.
This Was Not Raysball
The Rays did not play their brand of baseball tonight. Among the things they did poorly:
1—The Rays did not hit. The offense mustered 8 hits and scored only 3 runs. Their top hitters let them down all night, culminating on a weak pop out by Evan Longoria to end the game. Pat Burrell did hit a home run, but it was not enough.
2—The Rays did not pitch. The bullpen didn’t anyway. Any time you have to use 4 pitchers to get 1 out, there is a problem.
3—The Rays did not play defense. Bartlett’s poor throw paired with Upton’s misplay spelled doom for the Rays. They gave the Sox 5 outs in a crucial inning–something you cannot do to good teams.
The Rays will need to regroup to figure out how to score runs and get outs. Every game on this road trip has been decided by 1 or 2 runs. That says that our guys aren’t scoring runs and that it is imperative they stop other teams from scoring them. Especially late in the game.
The Rays will throw Scott Kazmir at the Sox’ Mark Buehrle. Both pitchers have had some recent success, so it is anybody’s game.
One thing is for sure. The Rays will not get the W tomorrow if they fail to show up as they did tonight.
And for a team that is currently 5 1/2 out of first place in the tough AL East, that is unacceptable.
This game was OVER.
Until it wasn’t.
Two nights in a row Bobby Jenks let the Rays have hope. That is one night too many. This team is built for the comeback, and boy did they.
First, the Lineup
What was Joe Maddon thinking?
(I KNOW it’s an old picture, but it fits don’t you think?)
The Rays’ skipper put out a lineup that was missing two of its biggest hitters and filled in with bench players who do not get a whole lot of at bats.
And it worked!
To be honest, the Rays had mustered only 1 run on 4 hits up until the 9th inning. And those Rays he put into the game were able to go only 1/9, the lone hit being a single.
But Joe Dillon, Willy Aybar, and Gabe Kapler (LOVE that guy!) were able to help the defense and Jeff Nieman keep the game close until regulars Carl Crawford, Carlos Pena, and Gabe Gross entered the game in the 9th.
In the 9th, all hell broke loose for the Rays–in a good way.
The Fateful 9th Inning
Bobby Jenks entered tonight’s game in the 9th in much the same way he entered last night’s game: he had a 1-run lead, but he was starting the inning fresh and clean.
The Rays entered the 9th inning in the same way too–LOOKING TO WIN THE BALL GAME.
He immediately gave up a rocket to Jason Bartlett.
Nice, we have some speed on board.
Jenks then “plunked” Evan Longoria (it grazed his jersey and ended up hitting the umpire with more force than Evan).
Ok, now we’ve got a guy in scoring position.
Ben Zobrist, who was looking to extend his 10-game hitting streak, did just that with a rocket up the middle.
But since it was a liner Bartlett had to stop to make sure it went through. He could not get doubled off in the 9th. So he didn’t score, but
Bags are loaded with Pat “the Bat” Burrell up.
The fans were busy booing their closer when Burrell walked to force in the game tying run.
A dramatic moment that was lost on nobody sitting on my couch (um, me).
Carlos Pena entered the game to hit for Willy Aybar and launched what looked like a patented high fly grand slam to left. Instead, it turned into a sac fly double play (Burrell drew the throw as Longo scored).
WE HAVE THE LEAD!
CC walked and promptly stole second to put runners at 2nd and 3rd.
That was when Jenks had had enough and ended the inning on a weak Gross groundball.
But the damage was done.
In typical Rays style!
Rays up 3-2. Good times!
JP Howell would enter in the bottom of the 9th to close things out. He’s not officially the closer, but he has appeared in that capacity 4 of the last 5 games. What else do we call him?
Our closer entered the game and did what he does best: SHUT. THEM. DOWN.
The White Sox managed only a weak grounder up the middle and that was that. Howell struck out 2 of the 3 batters he retired, all the while making sure pinch hitter Dwayne Wise wasn’t going to try to steal second.
The fans booed.
Nieman the Dealin’ Demon
How’s that for a nickname?
Jeff Nieman was amazing tonight. He went 8 STRONG innings, walking NONE, giving up only 2 runs on 8 hits. He threw only 100 pitches in this outing and earned his team-leading 9th win.
This guy is making Andrew Friedman look like a genius for unloading Jason Hammel instead during spring training.
The tall Texan intimidated batters, blowing them away with his 94+ mph fastball. They couldn’t catch up to it.
Then he baffled the Sox hitters with his ankle-breaking curve. Hitters could not figure him out.
Especially Alexei Ramirez and Scott Podsednik, who both struck out twice against the Rays’ 6’10” hurler.
This was an outing that helps guys like Nieman get out of the shadow of the other Rays super-rookie (David Price) and garner some attention for himself for Rookie of the Year honors.
He was that good.
The Rays entered the game 15-19 against left handed pitching.
They shouldn’t have won tonight. Not with their lineup being dominated by Sox Clayton Richard.
They shouldn’t have won tonight. Not with the dominant Bobby Jenks entering the 9th with a 1-run lead (and boy oh boy was he booed tonight–not too classy Sox fans).
They shouldn’t have won tonight. Not with two of their best players gettiing most of the night off.
But the Rays DID win.
It was their best steal of the season.