As exciting and tense as that game just was, it was also incredibly straightforward. The Yankees scored their two runs on a "bloop and a blast" in the first inning - a single by Derek Jeter and a homerun by Nick Swisher - but were then held to just five baserunners for the rest of the night. The Rays, on the other hand, got two runners on in the sixth inning before Matt Joyce crushed a homerun into the rightfield stands, but only had three other baserunners the rest of the evening. There were no late-inning pinch hitters or dramatics, no quirky moves by Joe Maddon, no complicated plays to explain. It was a classic pitcher's duel, and a darn exciting one at that.
Wade Davis pitched one of this best games of the season - nay, his career - last night, holding the Yankees to only two runs for a full seven innings. He struck out six hitters, his most in a game in over a month, and he only walked three batters. Davis relied almost exclusively on his four-seam fastball, throwing it 74 times on the evening, but he also mixed in two dozen curveballs and a handful of sliders and two-seam fastballs. His curveballs were particluarly effective; they had a 12.5% whiff rate and some of them were quite nasty to watch. As much abuse as he gets around here sometimes, Davis has been very effective in his last four starts, letting up two runs or less in each start while lasting 7 innings, 8 innings, 6.1 innings, and 7 innings. A sign of better things to come? I hope so.
The real story of the night, though, was Matt Joyce.
Ulysses, Gonzo, Mr. Clutch - whatever you want to call him, Joyce has been a hero for the Rays. That's his third game-winning hit in the last week and he currently has an OPS over 1.000 with runners in scoring position, including three homeruns and three doubles. The Rays have so many talented young players it's tough to have a favorite, but Joyce is quickly climbing to the top of my list.
With that win, the Rays break their Friday night curse and move within one game of the Yankees. The Red Sox also lost (despite Jose Valverde's best efforts), meaning the Rays are now 6.5 games ahead of them in the Wild Card. If the Rays manage to pull a trade off today - and Andrew Friedman was hinting during the game that it was a distinct possibility - it would cap off one of the best weeks I've ever experienced as a Rays' fan. Life is good.
- Pena put on a defensive show last night, starting a double play on a hard hit ball in the sixth inning (getting the Rays out of a first and second, one out jam) and making an incredible stop to his right to make the final out of the game. The Rays can now point to Dunn and say, "See? This is why you can't play first for us."
- I love Soriano. His reaction after Pena made the final out of the game was priceless - start to get excited, recover himself, and then untuck his jersey with a (beeping) vengence. Apparently he doesn't like the Yankees.
- Alex Rodriguez didn't hit his 600th homerun last night; instead he went 0-4 with a strikeout. If you want to see some really nifty analysis of where A-Rod's 600th homerun may land (if he were to hit it in the Trop), check out this article by SeatGeek. I'm impressed.