Friday night: Rained out; makeup date unannounced.
Saturday afternoon: Rays get some help from Ben Zobrist and Willy Aybar’s home runs. Grant Balfour and the bullpen blow the lead in the eighth inning, but they’re bailed out by a fourrun Rays ninth inning. Dan Wheeler nearly blows it again, sending the tying run to the plate with nobody out, but the Rays win 97.
Sunday afternoon: Rays blow the lead thanks to Balfour, J.P. Howell and a major defensive gaffe by Aybar. They go down in flames 43.
Monday night: Andy Sonnanstine gives up four home runs to the Yankees. Despite the first home run this year from Gabe Kapler, the Rays lose 53 on national television.
As one can see, this weekend for the Rays started off quite well, then fell into disarray. They can come back home and face yet another turnaround project. Their next opponent, the Angels, also had a slow start this season. Hopefully for us, it still is slow. Then we get the Washington Nationals, who are basically today’s Devil Rays. At least they should be drafting Stephen Strasburg.
I would also like to plug my new, totally unrelated blog. This one is written for my Journalism I class at school, and deals with broad topics within that field. You can find it at http://brentonthejournalist.blogspot.com.
It is now time for the Yankees and Red Sox to fight to the death. Then we can have the remains. Until next time, go Rays.
Those pesky New York Yankees keep biting at the Rays, but the Rays giveth and the Rays taketh away. They edged out an 86 victory at the new Yankee Stadium to complete the twogame sweep and earn their first threegame winning streak this season.
The Rays were off to an early 40 lead thanks to home runs from Jason Bartlett, Carlos Pena and Evan Longoria behind Jeff Niemann, who mysteriously left the game after just over three innings. He walked four Yankees without recording a strikeout, so his 78 pitches in that short timespan just might have done it. Lance Cormier came in and the game was tied on his watch before Ben Zobrist (Mr. Timing) did it again, blasting a home run off Andy Pettitte to make it 54 Rays.
After another run doubled the lead, Dan Wheeler got the first two outs in the eighth inning before a Derek Jeter single brought up Johnny Damon. On one pitch, Damon tied the game with a home run into the second deck. This reminded me of the Damon of 2006 who reached the upper deck so often you would think he had been taking some of Roger Clemens’ cocktail. Regardless, the game was tied at six.
Mariano Rivera entered in the ninth inning, and knowing his lackluster track record in tie games, I thought maybe we still had a chance to win right then and there. Carl Crawford stepped in and forced a ninepitch plate appearance before blasting a cut fastball down the right field line and gone for his first home run of the year. Talk about picking your spots, there is another classic example. Speak of the devil, Longoria followed with his own moonshot to left field for his second home run of the game and tenth of the season. This guy once again proves that he is a primetime player.
Brian Shouse wisely came in for the ninth inning’s first two hitters, inducing weak ground balls back to him by Hideki Matsui and Robinson Cano. With switch hitter Nick Swisher due up, Joe Maddon called on Joe Nelson, who used his trademark vulcan changeup and wellplaced fastball to strike Swisher out. Rays win, 86, and take the sweep.
The Rays hit six home runs as a team, including leading off the game (Bartlett) and the two off Rivera. It was the first time since July of 1998 that Rivera had allowed two home runs in one game.
Ben Zobrist and Gabe Kapler (starting in place of B.J. Upton) each stole their second bases of the season, picking up for the allpowerful Crawford.
This game and the previous two have finally proven that the Rays still have the competitive fight and lategame drive that they had in 2008. It was as good as dead for the first few weeks, but now the life is springing from the team, as may the hope from our fans. As Dewayne Staats and Kevin Kennedy (good broadcast team, by the way) alluded to following this game, these will be the ones the Rays look at as the turning point at season’s end. These were nothing short of huge victories in epic battles, and the Yankees have mercifully been taken down a few pegs while the Rays climb that ladder.
Next is an equally important showdown in Boston as we meet the Red Sox yet again. James Shields can handle Brad Penny, so we better win that first game. They beat Penny once already and have now won six out of eight games, so why not? Until next time, go Rays.
The Rays narrowly pulled one out of the fire last night in their first game at the new Yankee Stadium, winning 43 courtesy of Carlos Pena’s 10th inning home run.
Tampa Bay built a 30 lead on an Evan Longoria double, Akinori Iwamura sacrifice fly and Dioner Navarro single that each drove in a run. (Navarro may be turning it around now, backtoback good games). Andy Sonnanstine pitched as well as I have ever seen him (7.1 IP, 4 K, 0 BB), but left two minor leaguers on base in Ramiro Pena and Jose Molina. Home plate umpire James Hoye (who I blasted in this commentary last June) was calling a very liberal strikezone. But this liberal wasn’t bringing peace; Yankee outfielder Nick Swisher was ejected for arguing balls and strikes, and it nearly happened later to B.J. Upton. Back to the game: Dan Wheeler struck out Derek Jeter with two men on base for the eighth inning’s second out.
Then mystique and aura sent the Rays into purgatory. J.P. Howell entered the game and walked Johnny Damon on five pitches, four of which were low and outside. I knew that both that and putting Pena and Molina on base were bad signs. Sure enough, slowstarting Mark Teixeira promptly hit a gametying double almost off the chalk in the left field corner. Howell has been decent statistically so far, but his 02 record and two blown saves have all Rays fans concerned. Then the homer groundscrew pulled the tarp over the field right after the Yankees tied the game. Thankfully, the rain delay was about 30 minutes or less. Now with the game tied, the Rays got nothing done in the ninth inning thanks to strikeouts (What else is new?), and the Yankees also blew their opportunity.
Then came the tenth inning. Carlos Pena, who is an automatic strikeout once there is a two strike count (three in this game), led off against lefthander Phil Coke. Coke never got to two strikes, as Pena blasted a 10 pitch over the right center field wall to give the Rays a crucial 43 advantage. Tampa Bay actually fought back to get the lead, but could they hold it? Troy Percival would provide the answer.
Derek Jeter was retired before Johnny Damon doubled over Upton’s head on a ball Upton appeared to be jogging in front of. Percival promptly threw a pitch away to send the tying run on to third base. Teixeira hit a fly ball to right center field, but Gabe Gross caught it too close to home for Damon to try it. With that bullet dodged, Hideki Matsui, a lifetime owner of the Rays and a huge latefgame threat, stepped in. But Percival channeled the spirit of the Rally Monkey and induced a fly ball to Carl Crawford to save the Rays’ narrow win. This game has “instant classic” written all over it, especially to us Rays fans. Teixeira’s signature Welcome to the Yankees moment was shattered by Carlos Pena’s leagueleading 12th home run. And by the way, Troy Percival’s ERA is a mere 2.08. That’s a figure from his peak years when he could throw 100 miles an hour.
Crawford stolen base count: 20for20. He has racked up nine consecutive games with a stolen base, and this is his seventh consecutive 20steal season.
B.J. Upton (7) and Evan Longoria (2) also stole bases in this game.
Tonight the Rays go for the sweep as Jeff Niemann matches up with Andy Pettitte. Niemann has been The Riverboat Gamblers so far, On Again, Off Again. Pettitte has seemingly been that way for a few years straight. Which pitchers we get should determine the outcome of the game. Until next time, go Rays.