The Rays defended their home turf successfully this weekend, winning three out of four games against the enemy from Boston to improve to 52 against them so far in 2009. It was the first series they won since the opening series, also against the Red Sox.
Saturday’s game was not the one to attend as Jeff Niemann ended his good outing streak at two, allowing six runs (five earned) in three innings of work and making another case for David Price. Despite a comeback effort featuring a Carl Crawford stolen base and a Carlos Pena home run, the Rays lost 106.
Tampa Bay took back Tropicana Field today with a solid 53 victory. James Shields got into first inning trouble before escaping and going on to a nice performance: 7.1 IP, 2 ER, 6 K. J.P. Howell nearly let it get away by surrendering a tworun home run to the dangerous Kevin Youkilis, but an insurance run manufactured largely by Jason Bartlett sealed the deal. Troy Percival actually made it look easy with a perfect ninth inning for the save, his third in as many opportunities, despite a fan taking away what would have been the final out and later having a ball hit to the warning track. He scares me just a bit less now. His stats are very good so far.
Speaking of stats, an amazing baseball feat was accomplished today by Crawford. He stole no fewer than six bases in the game, tying the modern era MLB record. Eddie Collins, Otis Nixon (with the great 1991 Braves) and Eric Young are the only other players to achieve this milestone. (Young was the most recent, in 1996.) Being a huge fan of stolen bases, as well as Crawford himself, I recognize this as one of the single greatest feats in Rays history. Carl is now a perfect 17for17 on the basepaths this year. This is the type of comeback we needed from him. Of course, he would never have done it without getting on base five times in as many plate appearances. Congratulations, and may we see more games like this one in the near future.
The most important statistic, however, is 31 the Rays’ series record. They take home some huge wins and will now host Baltimore for what will hopefully be an easy dose of vengeance. Until next time, go Rays.