Although the final score doesn't reflect it, this game was a close pitchers' duel up until the eighth inning. Cliff Lee and Matt Garza were both in good form last night, although neither of them was quite as dominant as you might expect. That's not to say that they pitched poorly - both Lee and Garza struck out many batters, walked very few players, and limited the opposing team to only two runs through seven innings. Neither team could make solid contact, and the game looked like it was going into extras. Each pitcher had a weakness tonight, though: Garza had low swinging strike numbers (5.5%) and Lee let up lots of hits (10 total), albeit only two went for extra-bases.
Those hits came back to bite Lee in the butt in the eighth inning. The Rays scored three runs on a grounder up the middle, a bunt, a single, an error, and another single. This production is a far cry from sexy, but it got the job done and managed to chase Cliff Lee from the game. Enter Sean White from the bullpen, with running twitter commentary from Jeff Sullivan at Lookout Landing:
"Atta boy, Sean, test that belief system. Now's the perfect time!"
"SEAN WHITE IS LITERALLY NOT GOOD AT ANYTHING"
"GOOD LET'S WARM TEXEIRA FROM HIS HIBERNATION BECAUSE SEAN WHITE CAN'T THROW STRIKES IN A GARBAGE INNING"
"SEAN WHITE HAS ONE STRIKEOUT AND FOUR UNINTENTIONAL WALKS IN 8.2 INNINGS"
"SEAN WHITE THROWS MORE THAN 40% BALLS AND RECEIVES A MOCK CHEER FROM AN EMPTY STADIUM"
"BIG OL STANDING O FOR SEAN WHITE IN MY LIVING ROOM"
"I think I'm broken. 2010 finally got me."
In other words, the Rays took Sean White to town, tagging him for three runs in only one-third of an inning. Our offense sure loves producing in the the eighth and ninth innings...
Although he didn't generate many swinging strikes last night - and none on his breaking pitches - Garza still pitched quite well. We pitched eight innings, struck out five, walked only one, and let up six hits; not that bad a line at all. Garza's velocity was as good as always and all of his pitches had great movement, but it appears that his change-up and slider are traveling at nearly identical speeds. Of course the curve ball moves nothing like a change-up so it shouldn't matter, but a small deviation in speed would help keep hitters more off-balanced when at the plate.
One thing I found interesting is that Cliff Lee appeared to be getting hosed on some close calls throughout the course of the game. According to Brook's Baseball.net, his strike zone was smaller than Garza's zone and he missed a decent number of strike calls. Would that have affected the outcome of the game? Probably not, but interesting nonetheless.
Earlier in the game, Pat Burrell struck out on three straight fastballs down the middle. He didn't swing at any of them. There's no real reason I'm saying this fact, but it seemed important to point out.
That was by far the toughest pitching match-up of the series, while today's game favors the Rays a considerable amount (Ryan Rowland-Smith vs. Jeff Niemann).. Let's bring out those brooms and go for a sweep!