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.
The first half of this RaysRed Sox series at Tropicana Field could not have gone much better for our home team. 130 and 62 wins are always great ways to kick off rivalry series. Especially when it is the first time in 18 days that they have won consecutive games.
Matt Garza was at possibly his best ever, right up there with that start in Miami last season, throwing six perfect innings as his team hammered Josh Beckett. One infield hit by Jacoby Ellsbury and a walk to David Ortiz was all Boston had against Garza. The Rays piled on a few multiplerun innings, including the embarrassment of reliever Javier Lopez, who was switched around with Jonathan Van Every and placed in right field. Michel Hernandez, who hit his first Major League home run during this game, proceeded to hit a ball right by Lopez for his first career double. It was cruise control from that point in the Rays’ 130 victory.
The Friday night game was another epic battle that will not be forgotten anytime soon. I attended the festivities in section 147, around left center field. I had a most interesting view for the happenings of the fifth inning.
The Rays went down 20 entering that inning, then loaded the bases by way of hits, walks and even a sacrifice bunt by Dioner Navarro. B.J. Upton hit a 32 pitch far enough for a sacrifice fly to cut the deficit in half. Crawford walked to reload the bases, bringing up Evan Longoria with his golden opportunity. He went down 02 to Justin Masterson, took two straight balls, then smashed one high, deep to left field…
I have almost never seen a live Rays crowd as jubilant as that one was. I have certainly never seen a game turn around on one swing like that, as thousands of Red Sox fans were instantly silenced. This could be a major turning point in this 2009 season. Carlos Pena hit his 10th home run just two pitches later to extend it to a 62 lead. From there the win was more automatic than I feared it would be as the bullpen shut it down effectively.
Now, some live game notes:
There were indeed thousands of Red Sox fans in the building, and in the early innings they even sounded like a majority. Rays fans worked hard to drown out several “Let’s Go Red Sox” chants. The guys behind me were ragging on the Rays, talking about the “dump” we call a stadium and how the Rays were good one year and now have 5,000 fans. First, do some research, and secondly, go the hell back to Boston if you hate us and our dome. I let the Rays speak for me on the field to silence those guys.
Around the top of the sixth inning (or seventh, I’m not sure), the Rays fans in my row to my right were confronted by a drunk, angry Red Sox fan who looked like a 16yearold basement dweller. Apparently, “Let’s Go Rays” was all he needed to pick a good fight. He started egging them on, asking repeatedly what they just said to him and if they wanted to go. The Rays fans basically said it was nothing to fight over. This guy disagreed, and as security ran up the stairs, he threw a haymaker right into the face of a fan about four or five seats down from me. He went from being escorted out of the stadium to being escorted to jail facing an assault charge. The group made witness statements and will be pressing charges.
Now, this is not an indication of the attitudes of Red Sox fans, or those of any other team. But this ignorant fan took his team love/hatred a bit too far. It’s nothing like international soccer, but we Americans should be more civilized than picking random fights with opposing fans. Every game would end in riot if we all did that. I had to restrain myself from popping the guys behind me during the early innings. But I knew the consequences of doing such a thing and how that would have made me look. This guy, and other fans involved in at least two other fights, singled themselves out as the idiots of the bunch. I personally hope they are banned for life from Tropicana Field if not for fighting, then for serious stupidity.
For the record, a few Red Sox fans around us did chastise the one who picked the fight. Again, it’s not all of them.
As for the game, the crowd turned right around into a massive “Let’s Go Rays””chant after the fifth inning home runs. A “Boston Sucks” chant also started near the end of the game.
I’m not sure why only 27,045 people showed up. Maybe it’s the economy? I could barely afford the tickets that I had.
A large contingent of University of Tampa fans were shown on the big screen during the game. Amazingly, for a school with so many northeastern transplants and thus, Red Sox fans, it was a largely proRays group in the Party Deck. They even got on TV with Todd Kalas. Cheers to my school for that recognition.
It’s right back to business tonight as Jeff Niemann looks for his, and the team’s, third straight win. And I personally have final projects to complete for school. I don’t know how much of the games I can watch, but I know they are on TBS tomorrow. Until next time, go Rays.
Josh Beckett, the ace of the Boston Red Sox, was deservingly suspended for six games and fined for throwing at the Angels’ Bobby Abreu after he had called timeout, then screaming at manager Mike Scioscia and instigating a fight. Abreu went undisciplined, which makes sense because he started nothing and threw no punches.
Beckett should have known better than to do that at anytime to anyone, let alone to the Angels, who were emotionally charged from the recent death of Nick Adenhart. He threw at the guy’s head for stepping out of the batter’s box, then fired verbal shots when the Angels called him out. It’s good to see Major League Baseball finally holding the Red Sox accountable. It’s a small bit of vengeance for the way they mishandled the James ShieldsCoco Crisp incident. Good thing Crisp is in Kansas City now, or I would still be calling for his head.
Until next time, go Bob Watson.