First off, I'd like to apologize publicly to the team at Rays the Stakes and its readers for dropping the ball last week. I am not going to make excuses and will instead offer a promise: I will not let you down again. Henceforth, I will hustle on every play and offer insightful thoughts each time I am called upon to do so. And now, onward to victory.
Ben Zobrist: 2-3 on the day with a dinger, a triple, two runs scored, and an RBI while playing a fine, tho not spectacular, middle infield. Thanks, Zorilla, for continuing to put the super in super-utility.
Some Old Guy: This guy named Joe Dillon went 3-3 with two runs scored and a ribbie. While of course we all prefer to see Longoria out there at third, it's nice to not get punished for his absence. Anybody miss Adam Kennedy? Oh, wait. Well, at least this takes some of the sting out of that.
Clutch Hitting: Rays hitters came back from deficits of 0-2 and 2-3, against C.C. Sabathia no less, and eventually built a lead of 5-3. After the Yanks tied it in the 8th, the Rays put up four runs in the top of the ninth. Three of those runs came with two outs (Zobrist led the inning off with a triple and was singled in by Old Joe Dillon, who made it to third on a pair of sacrifices). Also, the 8th run was scored by Andy Sonnanstine, who pinch-ran for Longoria, who himself pinch-hit for the inexplicably-in-the-game Gabe Kapler. My only complaint: Crawford was caught stealing third to end the inning with Peña at the plate. Right now, Carlos is not much of a risk to hit a single, so why take that risk to shave 90 feet off your run towards home?
Gabe Kapler: Again, can somebody please explain to me why this guy wears a Rays uniform? The guy went 0-3 today and saw a total of 8 pitches. Could somebody tell Maddon that I said I don't want to see this guy anymore unless he's playing for somebody else? Thanks.
Rays Pitching: David Price walked 5, and though he only gave up two runs--both scored by A-Roid, one on a homer and the other on a Cano groundout after Rodriguez made it to third on Navi's throwing error--he didn't make it out of the fifth inning. And, furthermore, only two Rays relievers put up clean lines, Nelson and Choate. One wonders about some of Maddon's decision-making here. For example, why not bring in Howell to start the 7th instead of leaving Balfour, who had finished the 6th, out there? This, and not what was done, would seem to be the kind of situation in which both pitchers tend to excel. In the end, the pitching held up enough to let the bats win it, but not without nearly giving me both a heart attack and an aneurysm.
B.J. Upton: 1-4 at the plate was good enough to continue Upton's march back towards a respectable batting average, and his ribbie was important, he was gunned down twice on the basepads today. This is, by now, a familiar refrain: I'm all for Upton being agressive--he's fast, and he's trying hard to make things happen--but I'm against him being stupid. Getting picked off first falls nearer the latter than it does the former.
Dionner Navarro: Lousy both at and behind the plate, Navi continues to baffle and frustrate those still inclined to defend him. He committed three errors today, two of which were bad throws to second that sailed into the outfield. I can't believe that I feel better when Michel Hernandez is calling games for the Rays. This pretty much sums up Navarro's season so far.
Carlos Peña: Continuing his feast-or-famine ways, Peña went 0-4 with three strikeouts. I love the guy, but I hate when he does this.
It's not every day that a team makes four errors and gives up four runs in the final two innings while still managing to come up with a victory. Pretty, it wasn't, but a win's a win, and the Rays, and the Rays faithful, will take what they can get. The victory, following the Rays first three-game sweep of the year, extends the Rays' winning streak to 4 games and brings them over .500 again.
This year has been rough for myriad reasons, some attributable to the Rays, others not. And yet, Tampa Bay's nine are still only four games off the lead in the division. Let's all hope that the Rays can take advantage of the failure of the other Beasts of the East to blow the division open. The Rays have played badly, and they have played hurt. If they can stay in the race under the circumstances we've seen so far, then they can surely still win it with a combination of good play and good luck from here on out. I'm expecting plenty of both, and a series victory here in New York.