I had planned to write up a nice little review on the night Wade Davis had, and I'll still touch on it briefly. But that all went out the window in the top of the 8th inning.
After J.P. Howell recorded outs against the first two batters he faced, and then the fun started. With Lance Berkman batting and the count at 2-2, Howell threw what looked to be an inning ending strike three. Home plate umpire Vic Carapazza didn't see it that way. Berkman eventually walked. Take a look at the image below and notice the little green dot in the middle of the zone.
That lead to Joe Maddon arguing from the dugout and earning his 21st career ejection. Howell threw some very close pitches to the next batter, David Freese, that were called balls as well. The Pitch f/x data shows they were indeed balls, but with the strike zone awful as erratic as it was tonight you expected those calls would have gone the Rays way, especially after the Berkman at bat. Instead, Freese walked as well. Colby Rasmus came to the plate next and crushed a three run bomb to deep right. Before Ramus even crossed home plate Howell was in Carapazza's face, eventually having to be physically restrained by John Jaso and Dave Martinez. It's easy to understand Howell's rage in that situation. I know there are some of you that have been overly critical of Howell this season, but he should have been out of the inning unscathed. Instead the deficit jumped from an in reach two runs, to a seemingly out of reach five. However, Howell wasn't the only Ray to be upset with the calls. David Price and Elliott Johnson were each ejected from the dugout.
Events like these stoke the flames for Major League Baseball doing something about the shoddy umpiring. The situation is made worse by the fact that the home plate umpire is a Triple-A call-up. It's tough enough when it's an established veteran umpire, but when its someone out of his element the knife cuts a bit deeper. Should Howell be excused for the three run home run? Probably not. But it shouldn't of come to that in the first place.
The Rays tried to mount a come back in the 8th, matching the Cardinals with three runs of their own. Longoria doubled home Reid Brignac to score the first run, and Matt Joyce hit his first home run since June 2nd to cut the deficit to two. That's as close as the Rays would get. They had chances to score earlier in the game, but failed to get hits with runners in scoring position in the second and third innings. The Trop continues to be the best pitcher's park in baseball and the Rays' offensive woes continue.
As I mentioned earlier, Davis pitched pretty well. He recovered from a bumpy start to throw just 92 pitches over seven innings. The curveball was excellent tonight, throwing it 20 times for 14 strikes. He only recorded three strikeouts, but each came on a fastball that Davis put a little extra juice on, hitting 94mph in the strikeout of Jon Jay. That has been Davis' plan this season -- get ahead and then pump it up to 94 -- but it's far easier said than done when you lack a plus third pitch. This marks the third quality start in a row for Davis. And I don't mean that in the 6IP and less than 3ER sense. He's allowed 1, 1, and 2 earned runs over his last three starts, albeit they've all come against National League teams. In his last three starts against American League teams he's allowed 4,5, and 7 earned runs. Hopefully he gained some confidence from these strong starts and can carry that over when he faces the AL again.
*I'll add quotes from the ejectees tomorrow