The Rays have had a tendency to play better in nationally televised games. Whether FOX, TBS or ESPN, they have had success on the networks. Today’s game with the Indians at Tropicana Field was actually more of a regional telecast, but Tim McCarver (A.K.A. the reason to own a radio) was in the booth with Dick Stockton, so it was big enough for us.
The Rays were rolled over by Carl Pavano in the first three innings, but B.J. Upton led off the fourth inning with a line drive home run off the foulpole just over the short wall. It looked cheap, but it was a home run anyway B.J.’s second in as many games after being kept off the board for nearly five weeks. The next inning saw a daring double steal on a missed bunt that sent Gabe Gross to third base and Akinori Iwamura up to second base behind him. Third baseman Jhonny Peralta was playing in for the bunt and could not receive a throw (which is the only way Gross can steal third base), and would end up kicking himself when Jason Bartlett decided to swing and laced a tworun single to center field.
In the bottom half, another recurring issue came up: the Rays gave the runs back. Three consecutive hits brought a run home with nobody out, and the damage was limited to one more on a sacrifice fly. Ninth hitter Luis Valbuena, who is barely hitting half his weight, coaxed 11 pitches out of Matt Garza before a popup ended the inning after a total of 40 pitches. Needless to say, Garza did not go too much longer, throwing six innings (five great ones) with two earned runs.
Down to their last chance for an insurance run, Ben Zobrist came up with two men on base and two out. No home run this time, but a double down the left field line scored Carl Crawford and made it a 42 game. A good play off the wall by Matt LaPorta prevented the second run from scoring. But the Rays had their tworun lead heading to the ninth inning, which means it’s time for…
Joe Nelson. Swerve!
Nelson mixed up welllocated fastballs and the trademark vulcan changeup to induce a flyout by Valbuena, a called third strike to Grady Sizemore and one more flyout from Asdrubal Cabrera. Rays win, 42. They need one more win and they can take this series and win four of five games overall.
Speaking of Zobrist (better known as “Zorilla”), MLB.com has an article on the new trend of “super utility players,” a term I first heard from Joe Maddon describing Zobrist, who is interviewed for the piece. Also mentioned: the Indians’ Mark DeRosa, Kansas City’s Willie Bloomquist, the Reds’ Jerry Hairston, Jr. and Alfredo Amezaga of the Marlins.
The Rays will see if Andy Sonnanstine can still throw strikes as he goes for the series win against… David Huff? I don’t know who he is, but apparently an average start at AAA was enough to get him promoted to make his Major League debut against the Rays. He sounds beatable to me. We can only hope so. Until next time, go Rays.