Blowing out a team is always nice. There's something about it that doesn't quite leave me satisfied, though. I guess some things aren't as much fun when they're tooeasy, ya know? The Rays looked good in blowing out Toronto in two games last week, but a win like last night's is immensely more enjoyable to me. The offense played well, the defense made some fantastic plays, and even though Matt Garza had a few rough patches the pitching performed well. In my opinion it was one of the Rays' most complete victories in a long time.
Let's start with the offense:
-The Rays got behind 1-0 in the first inning, but that Florida lead wouldn't last for long. In the Rays' second at bat of the game Carl Crawford hit a line drive home run to right-center field. After a Longoria strikeout, Carlos Pena extended his franchise record by blasting a home run in his 6thconsecutive game. I think its safe to say that Carlos Pena really enjoys the month of June. Sean Rodriguez led off the next inning, promptly launching his fourth home run of the season. That makes a 13 game hitting streak for Rodriguez, who has seen his OPS jump from .579 to .759 over that span. He's making the most of the playing time he's getting due to Jason Bartlett's injury. It's going to be interesting to see how Joe Maddon manages his playing time when Bartlett comes off the DL. The team scored six runs, and no player had multiple RBI. Every player reached base at least once - Even Blalock! - except for John Jaso. Runs were scored early to put the team on top, and insurance runs were added on late when the Marlins had crept back into the game. It was truly fun to watch.
-As good as the offense was, the Rays do not win this game without some stellar defensive play. In the top of the third inning Hanley Ramirez hit a high fly ball that seemed to remain in flight for minutes. Thankfully the ball bounced off the top of the padded railing in left-center field, just over the outstretched arm of B.J. Upton. The ball deflected back into play, and if Carl Crawford had not alertly sprinted over to back up B.J. then Ramirez probably ends up with an inside the park home run. Instead he had to settle for a triple. The next batter was Jorge Cantu. The former Devil Ray popped out to Ben Zobrist in foul ground in right field. Ramirez tagged up and Zobrist made a perfect one hop throw to Jaso to gun Ramirez and get the Rays out of the inning unscathed. Aside from those two outstanding plays, the team turned two double plays and Evan Longoria threw out a runner at first from his knees after making a great diving stop.
-Even though Matt Garza wasn't at his best for the fourth start in a row, he was still pretty damn good. He did allow four runs in 5.2IP, but he also struck out seven men. Garza also generated 11 swinging strikes. He had his slider working again, throwing it 21 times and getting five swinging strikes (23.81%). That's very nice to see, considering he didn't have his best slider in his last start. Grant Balfour did a nice job in relief, going two innings and allowing one hit and one run. Strangely, the run scored on a balk*. That brought the score to 6-5, which meant we would see Rafael "MFIKY" Soriano in the 9th inning. The Marlins went down in order.
Out of all of the Rays new additions this season, Soriano has been the most fun to watch. I still maintain that he doesn't know what team he's pitching for, who he's pitching against, or where he is. He just knows he needs to throw the little white ball to the man crouching behind the plate. Those are good traits for any assassin. I know he's already nicknamed MFIKY, but I'd like to give him a second title; The Professional. As in this.
This afternoon's game features The Big Nyquil Jeff Niemann, who has been the Rays most consistent starter this season. Hopefully he can add on to the complete game shutout he threw in his last outing and send the Rays off to Atlanta in style.