If a picture is worth a thousand words, then video must be worth...I dunno, like, ten thousand? Hence, as The Professor over at Rays Index hit the tone more or less pitch perfect with this clip, I'll spare you my crowing about today's well fought and valiantly won victory and instead get down to business. Wait, maybe I will crow for a minute, since the Rays just won their second series of the season! Yeah, ok, you're right. I oughta freakin' crow about it.
This series, and this game, was important. After losing six series(es?) in a row, the Rays took one from the Red Sox. That means this is the second series they've won this year. The other was the first series of the season, also against the Red Sox. That, friends and neighbors, is awesome, and it is also in accordance with the predictions of our resident psychic, website creator, and Longoria enthusiast.
If the Rays can beat the Red Sox--arguably from top to bottom the best organization in baseball these days, like it or not--they can beat anybody. The Rays faithful have believed this since the beginning of the year. Yet there have been fears, justly, that the 2009 Rays were playing like Devil Rays. Remember when Mark Hendrickson was our most reliable starter? Me too, and I'm glad those days are over. I know that just as before it was too early to panic, it is now too early to get excited...but I can't help it. The Rays beat the freakin' Sox, and if they can play this hard and this well (and against this kind of competition, we can excuse a struggling fifth starter), they can beat anyone in the league.
Since I once again watched the game at a bar, I will stick to my format from last week (which is, of course, merely a beery version of the daily Cheese and Whine). If this post is weird, hard to understand, or problematic in any way, I firmly place the blame on others' heads. I mean, c'mon folks. I live in Brooklyn. The bars are open from dawn till 4:00 am. What am I s'posed to do?
Carl Crawford: Did you see this? That's C.C. breaking the A.L. record for stolen bases in a game, and it brings him to 17 for 17 on the season. That, friends and neighbors, is awesome. Add to that the fact that C.C. did not record an out in the game, that he managed four hits, for four total bases, and then added six to bring the total to ten, and you've got a one-man offensive juggernaut. If the polls are correct, C.C. is likely not long for the Rays, but nights like this remind any Rays fan why we love the guy. Make no mistake about it. Crawford put this team on his back today, and he carried them to victory with a little help from his friend...
James Shields: After a lousy first inning, he was locked down thereafter, and he was absolutely killer until he was pulled in the 8th after 108 pitches. He was helped out by good defense, for example, Michel Hernandez's excellent throw to second to catch Jacoby Ellsbury and C.C.'s good catch in the first--working with a shift that had him playing shallow--to save a run. But really, once he settled into the game, he was, save for the errant flat-as-heck breaking ball to the occasional J.D. Drew, excellent.
Defense: I mentioned some of it above, I know, but the Rays looked solid in the field to a far greater extent than I've seen them do over the past several games. As defense is a crucial part of their game, this is a very good thing.
Percy: For the first time this year, Percival saved a game in a non-terrifying manner. Indication of the future for the Rays' closer? I don't know, but I doubt it. Nevertheless, it was nice to watch.
Jason Bartlett: C.C. had such a spectacular day at the plate that it's easy to forge the fact that J.B. continues to be one of the most consistant hitters in the Rays' lineup. This is to say nothing of the ever-improving and already-pretty-daggum-good glove. Wish all the best to Delmon, and love Garza against the Sox in big games, but woulda made the trade for this guy alone.
Man, days like this make the years of suffering worthwhile and the rattty green-and-black hat a badge of honor.
I thought about leaving this blank, since takinf another series from the Red Sox this year, thereby disappointing Pink Hat Nation, is so freakin' satisfying. But the rain cloud that follows me around demands some darkness. Here goes:
B.J. Upton: Another 0-fer night for Melvin. That's right. I submit that from this night on, until he shows that he's in charge at the plate, the nickname "Bossman Junior" ought not be used to describe this young man. I know this is a bit harsh, and the guy is still making plays in the outfiield (his effortless grab of a sinking liner in the 5th looked easy but wasn't; as we all know, the he's good). We wonder what's wrong with his swing (see the third paragraph here), though tonight we're grateful that C.C. has made himslef de facto lead-off hitter, though he continues to accept the role de jure.
Michel Hernandez: I feel bad for this, as it's probably unfair, but Hernandez is a 4-A player, really. Sure, he threw out Jacoby Ellsbury in the 2nd, which was awesome. The guy also managed to have a fairly good day at the plate. However, in this he was profoundly lucky. Hernandez at the bat nubbed two double play balls, the first of which was broken up spectacularly by Jason Bartlett (with an assist from former D-Ray Julio Lugo, who may not have actually tagged Bartlett out), and the second of which was a 2-out force-out, so it didn't matter. Don't get me wrong. Navi is strugglin' to say the least. But Michel Hernandez is not the answer. Forcing Dinonar Navarro to figure out his problems, on the other hand, is the answer.
I'm glad the Rays fan TBS showed yelling coming into the bottom of the 2nd innign had his mouth covered. Having been at the Trop a number of times when it was invaded by Pink Hat Nation, I can only imagine what he was saying...
I figure there's no danger of being criticized for homer-ism in front of a hometown crowd, but I really get the feeling that the strike zone tends to expand when the Rays come up to bat. I mean not only that Rays batters still tend (witness Upton and Pat the What?) to swing at bad pitches (as did Longoria in the 5th), but that close calls tend to go against them, thereby reinforcing
Watching David Ortiz struggle almost bums me out. I mean, I'm happy to see him make outs against the Rays. I'm glad the guy's not launching balls over the fence at the Trop, but it's a little depressing to watch a once-great hitter sputter and fade the way he's doing these days. It's weird. I usually like watching the mighty made humble, but in this case--I dunno why--it makes me a little bit sad.
Anyhow, it's hard, but apparently not impossible, to complain about a Rays victory that displayed as much gut, determination, and real baseball strength as did this one. I am freakin' stoked about it, so I'll close thusly:
- Dustin "Steam-Powered Penny-Farthing" Fridkin