After a hard fought Yankees series, and even last night's 4-2 win over the Mariners, tonight's game had a welcome lack of drama.
The Rays wasted no time getting to Mariners starter Doug Fister scoring four runs on four hits in the first inning tonight. John Jaso led off with a hustle double to right and scored six pitches later when Zobrist smacked a line drive by first baseman Casey Kotchman. After a Crawford single moved Zobrist to third, Dan Johnson hit a warning track sac fly to right. Up next, Matt Joyce almost hit an exact replica of Johnson's ball, but Joyce's made the right field seats for a two-run home run.
In the middle of all the first inning scoring, the Red Sox were wrapping up their victory over the Yankees. The Yankee loss guaranteed the Rays the AL East for another day, and with the four run first, a chance to move up 1.5 games on New York. I'm sure the Rays players took a look at the scoreboard and took note of the Yankee's loss, but their bats were not complacent. They would go on to score five more runs--BJ Upton pitched in with a solo homer and a triple--to complete the drubbing of one of the AL's worst teams.
Matt Garza pitched well on the evening and earned his fifteenth win of the year. I'm not going to gush over his performance simply because of the opponent, but he finished the night only allowing one run in seven innings to a major league offensive, no matter how offensive they've been this year. Garza induced eight swinging strikes on 92 pitches and while he did allow eight hits, he was able to work out of jams and didn't help the Mariners out by walking none and striking out five. With Garza's struggles in September, this outing was a breath of fresh air.
Like Garza, Dan Wheeler has had a rough September, and like Garza, Wheeler rebounded tonight. Wheeler closed out the last five outs of the game on 19 pitches allowing one hit and while he didn't have swing-and-miss stuff, he got the Mariners to make contact and let the Rays fielders make plays behind him. Props again to BJ Upton who tracked down a few of those fly balls to deep center.
Rays move up 1.5 games on the Yankees. It feels wrong rooting for the Red Sox, but when the Yankees lose, it feels so right. James Shields tomorrow for the sweep!
- Since we're playing Ichiro: Former Cub Matt Murton is on pace to break Ichiro's single season hit record of 210... in Japan. My friend once saw him in an Arby's in New Orleans and said he ate "two large roast beef sandwiches AND a large curly fries." There's no euphemism here, I'm just telling you what happened.
- The only Ray to not get in on the fun tonight was Carlos Pena. Pena was 0-4 with a K, and while he did hit the ball hard on a line drive to center in the first inning, he looked clueless in his other at bats. Dan Johnson started at third base with Longoria out, and while it's scary to think of him there every day, this seemed to be just a way to get him into the lineup. When Longo comes back, is there a more permanent move to first for Johnson?