Perhaps one of the single greatest games in Rays history went down last night at Tropicana Field. James Shields was one hit away from absolute perfection against the Angels, with eight strikeouts and no walks allowed on just 92 pitches. Only one hit by Brandon Wood kept this game out of the MLB record books, though were it not for Carl Crawford and B.J. Upton, Gary Matthews, Jr. and Mike Napoli probably would have had hits as well. Their phenomenal early inning diving catches kept the game scoreless–all the way into the ninth inning. Just when it looked like this could turn into a repeat of the Shields-Erik Bedard duel that Tampa Bay lost in 2007, the Rays got a runner on base with one out on an Upton hit, and in stepped rookie Evan Longoria. Coming into this game having spiraled down to a .225 batting average, he, like Shields, had something to prove to the team and the fanbase. And he most certainly did it, answering the world with a walk-off home run off Justin Speier to give the Rays a 2-0 victory. Jon Garland pitched well, but Shields was once again in domination mode and finally did get the support he needed to win. More of this and maybe we’ll see first place again, especially after the Red Sox lost in walk-off fashion to the Minnesota Twins to push the Rays one game up. And the Yankees lost to the Tigers to top that off.
Tonight, Scott Kazmir looks to find a win for the first time this season against the Angels’ Joe Saunders. If he can bump it all the way up to 6-7 very good innings and he gets what he needs to win, I’ll call it substantial progress. We need more fans–Rays fans–at these games to support Kazmir and friends. So go out to Tropicana Field at every possible opportunity and show the Rays and the rest of the league that there is a true Rays fanbase out there that only grows larger by the day. If you can afford to travel, then cheer on the Rays at road games. Galvanize a nationwide fanbase, get Rays fans to infiltrate everyone else’s stadiums. We certainly should after the last ten years of it happening to us. So after that rant, until next time, go Scott Kazmir and the Rays.