After disappointing road series in Baltimore and Boston it was great to see the Rays open with a victory in Toronto...no matter how they ended up getting it done.
James Shields wasn't sharp again, allowing four earned runs and giving up two homers in five innings of work. Looking at the Pitch f/x data has me a bit confused however. It lists Shields as only throwing seven changeups, while throwing 13 curveballs, in his 83 pitches. While I'm a fan of Shields trusting his curveball more, I'd like it to come at the expense of his fastball and not the changeup.
Jose Bautista added two more home runs - running his season total to 46 - as one of the most astonishing seasons in recent memory keeps chugging along. The first homer came off Shields who hung a changeup middle in. The second was off Benoit who also left a pitch over the middle part of the plate. Here's a fun fact. Jose Bautista has pulled EVERY SINGLE ONE of his 46 home runs. Not once has he hit one the opposite way. He shouldn't see a fastball that comes near the middle or inner parts of the plate. Throw him everything toward the outer half. If he hits it for a single or double, fine, but at least you know he won't hit a home run.
The offense showed just how dangerous they can be, scoring six runs in the first inning of a good pitcher in Brett Cecil. Here's a recap of the action:
|- C. Crawford tripled to deep center, J. Bartlett scored
|- E. Longoria singled to center, C. Crawford scored
|- R. Baldelli doubled to shallow left, E. Longoria and S. Rodriguez scored
- B. Zobrist homered to deep left, R. Baldelli scored
The Rays would score a run in the 2nd on an Evan Longoria single, and added another in the 4th as B.J. Upton crushed his 17th home run into the left field stands. Of course, after showing all of that power, the winning run would be score in the 9th after not recording a hit. After Longoria and Carlos Pena had each walked, Sean Rodriguez grounded into a fielder's choice to second base. Yunel Escobar stepped on the bag but his throw to first base was way off target, allowing Longoria to come in to score. It wasn't pretty, but I'll take it.
The most puzzling decision of the night, and of the past few weeks really, was Maddon's decision to let Randy Choate face six batters. Choate relieved James Shields to start the sixth inning and was great, getting out two lefties in Overbay and Lind while also striking out the right handed Aaron Hill. John Buck, the big, strong right handed hitter lead off the seventh inning and Choate remained in the game even though Grant Balfour had been warming. I know there are two lefty bats behind Buck, but it was only a three run game at this point. Buck promptly drove a home run to deep right center cutting the Rays lead down to two. Choate would strike out Travis Snider and walk Dewayne Wise (his 3rd of the season) before being pulled. Was Maddon trying to rest the other arms in the pen after Shields' short outing? Perhaps, Choate is a LOOGY for a reason and should be used as such.