The day was dawning and the air was ripe with potential. Desmond Jennings, a Bull from the Lands of Durham had arrived on the ball field to face the mighty Royals of Kansas City. Upon joining the Rays, Jennings was immediately thrust into the leadoff spot by Lord Joe Maddon. With game time looming, Jennings found himself in the vanguard of the Rays offensive force.
Desmond wasted no time making his presence felt as he swung his mighty cudgel with such force that he crushed a Jeff Francis changeup to left-center and sped 'round the bases like the fastest of mounted knight, arriving at third base to greet Commander Tom "Dave" Foley with a cocked smile. When the Zorilla, Ben Zobrist, singled in Jennings with a groundball up the middle to score the Rays first run, it truly appeared that this game would be filled with magic and wonder.
But, then it would all turn to crap. Yeah, it's time to drop the Game of Thrones-style storytelling like the Rays dropped this game. Here's the facts: Desmond Jennings played his first 2011 MLB game like a BOSS (yeah, make the comparisons), but a few blunders by the bullpen and the offense had the Rays walking off the field with no handshakes.
This recap is like a "good news or bad news" situation. Which do you want first? A lot of people like to "pull off the bandaid" as they say and "bite the bullet," but I hate clichés, so I say, "Don't Worry, be Happy," and let's talk about Jennings a bit more.
As was mentioned above, Jennings led off the game with a sonic boom of speed when he tripled to the gap in left center and then scored on the Zobrist single. He would get right back to work in the second inning, driving in Elliot Johnson from third with a double down the left field line. Yes, I could point out that Johnson was on third via the triple, but this section is about DJ, not EJ or even BJ.
Jennings got a little respect in the fourth inning as he was intentionally walked with two outs and a man on third. He quickly stole second like a thief in the night, but was unable to score as Johnny Damon grounded out to short to end the inning. Obviously, the free pass wasn't all about fear of Jennings, Francis wanted to face Damon who had K'd foolishly in his first two at-bats, but it was nice to see the rook get on base and steal himself into scoring position.
Jennings would follow up his intentional walk with a four-pitch unintentional (intentional) walk in the sixth and scored on a Johnny Damon "double" to center for the Rays fourth and final run. I say "double" because that's what it was scored as, but in reality, Damon hit a sharp-but-not-smoked grounder past second baseman Chris Getz and Jennings just got on his horse and scored from first. Damon was able to move into second on the throw, thanks to Jennings. The most impressive thing about Jennings scoring from first here was that he wasn't stealing on the pitch. We've seen guys score from first easily when they were already running, but DJ wasn't. When you add in the fact that this groundball probably only went 150 feet from home plate, and Jennings scored easily as he swiped the plate with his hand before the ball came in, this was clearly the most exciting play of the night. I'm probably going on a bit too much about this, but, you see, I'm trying to stall, because it only goes downhill from here...after the jump...
Jeff Niemann, first-half whipping boy, put together another fine outing this evening. His line: 6IP, 3R, 2ER, 7H, 0BB, 4K on 93 pitches. He had that decent low 90's "Nyquill" on the fastball and generated 10 swinging strikes overall (10.75%). He missed spots on occasion, but snuck past a few bats with several heaters around 95MPH. His only big mistake was in the fourth inning on an 0-2 two-seamer to Mike Moustakas that caught too much of the strike zone and was sent screaming off the wall in center. Two Royals would score, though only one run was earned thanks to some rough glove work by Evan Longoria at third to start off the inning. All fairness, Longoria did make a fabulous play on an Escobar bunt in the 5th, and drove in the Rays only non-Jennings related run, but his error in the fourth was painful.
As for the bullpen, Joel Peralta gets an A for 1.1 innings of scoreless relief with three K's. J.P. Howell gets a C+ for his .2 innings with a HBP and a balk. Kyle Farnsworth receives an F for his blown save via a walk to Chris "gives as good as he" Getz and a RBI double to Alex Gordon. And, Brandon Gomes gets a D- and the loss for allowing a bloop single and a game winning double on just two pitches in the tenth. Why a D- and not an F? Well, because at least he got it over with quick and didn't walk guys like Chris Getz.
So, that's how the Rays lost it. If you want to know how the Rays did not win it, you must look at the top of the tenth inning. Aaron Crow started off the inning in spectacular fashion by walking Longoria and B.J. Upton. He was promptly yanked in favor of Joakim Soria who allowed a single to left to pinch-hitter Matt Joyce. So, bases loaded nobody out. Remember up top when I said that this would be a game filled with magic and wonder? Well the only Magic was The Kotchman himself grounding out softly to the pitcher who made the force out at home and the only wonder came on behalf of the Rays fans wondering what the hell Sam Fuld and Elliot Johnson were looking at as they both took called strike three on the outside corner to end the Rays scoring threat. Oy, what a letdown. Again, at least Brandon Gomes made it quick.
I didn't mention it up top because it didn't fit the agenda, but Desmond Jennings did get out tonight. He struck out looking in the ninth on a 3-2 fastball that PitchFX says was off the plate. To be fair, B.J. Upton was called out thanks to two pitches worse than this one, so that outside
corner batter's box was in play tonight. Announcers Brian Anderson and Dewayne Staats had quite the rousing discussion about it.