The Rays (27-24) dropped game two to the Cleveland Indians (31-18), losing 7-3. James Shields (5-3) took the loss today despite pitching a solid game. He managed 7 innings, while striking out 8, walking 3, and allowing a soft homer (if there is such a thing) to Matt LaPorta.
After the first two innings, it seemed unlikely Shields would finish the 5th inning, much less the 7th. Michael Brantley led off the game with a single and then came home on an Asdrubal Cabrera triple. Cabrera's success was short-lived however, as Shields promptly picked him off third base for his league-leading 6th pick off. The Indians scored another run later in the inning on an unusual double play, where Carlos Santana flew out to Matt Joyce, scoring Shin-Soo Choo while Travis Buck got doubled off first base.
The Rays offense was never able to put together a big inning, though, despite collecting 9 hits and 2 walks. Evan Longoria, hitting lead off for the first time in his MLB career, went 2 for 4 with a walk and a home run deep into center field. Though it was nice to see Longoria putting together a nice day at the plate, he did so while batting behind a trio of players who went 0 for 7 with 1 walk.
The game took a bad turn for the Rays in the 8th inning, as the Indians got the big inning the Rays missed. Reliever J.P. Howell came into the game and, after a long at bat, allowed a seeing-eye ground ball single to Michael Brantley. Ben Zobrist then missed a easy double play ball for his 4th error on the season and Howell plunked Choo in the back. Then Shelley Duncan hammered a pitch to left field, but the ball banged off the wall and B.J. Upton got it in quickly enough to hold Duncan to single while two runners scored.
Kyle Farnsworth then came in relief of Howell, getting the inning's three outs while allowing another two runs to score on a Orlando Cabrera single. The Rays put together a decent threat in the bottom of the 9th, loading the bases and forcing the Indians to turn to their closer Chris Perez. Johnny Damon, batting with 2 outs, slapped a ground ball to Matt Laporta, who mishandled the ball, allowing Damon to reach first safely and a run to score. Unfortunately, Evan Longoria did not notice the nature of the error and chased Sean Rodriguez off third base. Rodriguez was then caught in a rundown and tagged for the game's final out.
Other thoughts from the game:
- Sam Fuld went 0 for 3 with a walk, but at least to of those outs were hard hit and could have gone for hits. His recent up-tick in performance may earn him more consideration for a return to the lead off spot. Frankly, anything should be better than having the team's best hitter there.
- Casey Kotchman and Sean Rodriguez both had two-hit days. Kotchman also legged out a double in the ninth, his sixth of the season. One of Rodriguez's hits came on a run-scoring safety squeeze, a play with which Joe Maddon seems enamored.
- Juan Cruz had a great showing, pitching a quiet top of the ninth while striking out two batters. His command has been somewhat of a concern this year as he has walked 15 and struck out 16 (if you include today).