The American League Champion Tampa Bay Rays raised their banners for their division and league championships inside Tropicana Field on Monday evening. Then they got down to big business and fired rockets all over the field in the process of throttling the New York Yankees, 155.
The Rays scored four first inning runs against ChienMing Wang, who left pitches up and just wasn’t his usual self. Carlos Pena opened it up with a tworun double, then topped it off in the next inning with a towering grand slam that made it 90. A sixRBI night for Pena proved that he is back in shape and ready to smash again.
Meanwhile, Jason Bartlett stole a base and later hit his second home run in as many games, topping his regular season total from 2008. Carl Crawford, the only starter without a hit, still managed a stolen base following a walk. Speaking of base stealing, B.J. Upton returned ready to strike, taking both second and third bases against Wang and Jorge Posada. He also walked three times and made one of the top plays of the season, a nolook catch over the shoulder against the wall to rob Xavier Nady of extra bases. Pat Burrell got himself into the home run column with a long blast off Edwar Ramirez.
Pitchingwise, Scott Kazmir went 6.2 innings and allowed three earned runs, though his performance was better than that indicated. He walked nobody (yes, zero walks in a Kazmir start) and struck out six Yankees. Lance Cormier pitched decently, but gave up two lameduck runs before Brian Shouse shut it down.
The Yankees used Nick Swisher to pitch the bottom of the eighth inning. As you may know, he is a position player. He put the first two hitters on base before striking out Gabe Kapler (embarrassing) and allowing two short fly balls to escape with a perfect 0.00 ERA. That and Swisher’s earlier home run were the highlights of their nightmare Monday.
The Rays have to do it all over again next time as Matt Garza takes on A.J. Burnett. This is a big pitching matchup, but so was this last one and look how that turned out. A great start, and now they can ride that momentum wave into a winning streak. Until next time, go Rays.