Rays Black-Holed by Nova; Fall to Yankees, 5-3

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 08: Ben Zobrist #18 of the Tampa Bay Rays is tagged out trying to steal second by Robinson Cano #24 of the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium on May 8, 2012 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

Disclaimer: I'm fighting the urge to spend 300 words talking about Carlos Pena's final at-bat of the night. Down by two, with the bases loaded and two-outs, Carlos Pena struck out to end the game. He never took the bat off his shoulder. Then again, he never saw a strike, but that didn't keep umpire Jim Joyce from calling three of them to assist David Robertson in slamming the door for his first save since taking over for an injured Mariano Rivera.

Eighty-two words down and I'm still debating whether I'm more disappointed in the umpire for expanding the strike zone in the most important at bat of the game, or in Carlos Pena for not recognizing that he needed to protect the outside of the zone. Like most things, it's a careful combination of both, but I'm going to lean towards Pena on this one, because, hey, it's his job to swing the bat. There's nothing more frustrating than "what could have been," and that's exactly what three balls taken for strikes will get you.

One-hundred and seventy-six words now and I haven't even shown a Pitch F/X plot of the at bat. Well, here it is:

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via www.brooksbaseball.net

Yup, it's as clear as day, but you gotta go with the flow, right? After all, this might not have been Pena's worst AB of the night. In the eighth inning, Carlos K'd (swinging this time) with no outs and Ben Zobrist on third. Zobrist would score, but only on a Rafael Soriano wild pitch with two outs.

In the end, it looks like I only spent 256 words on that AB, and I'm still not sure how I feel about it. I know I feel crappy, but I also "hate to hate" on CP23. Oh well. Looks like that's 300 words.

Bullets after the jump...

  • Ivan Nova, gave up a leadoff single to Zobrist then mowed down the Rays offense, not allowing another base runner until there were two outs in the fifth inning. The only Rays to damage him were Jose Molina and Luke Scott who both hit solo homers. I don't know how often I'll get to say this, but Jose Molina's homer was an absolute bomb to the bullpen in left-center. It was impressive. Scott's was a porch'd pop-up that caused him to hang his head in shame when it came off the bat. Conversely, he was all smiles as he crossed home plate.
  • Curtis Granderson hit a similar short-porch homer, but knew it right off the bat. Dude knows his home park.
  • Filling in the leadoff for the hobbled Desmond Jennings, Ben Zobrist had a fine day at the plate. Zorilla went 2-3 with a triple and two walks. He was caught stealing in the first, however.
  • James Shields worked just six innings tonight. He gave up three earned runs on four hits and three walks while striking out four. All the runs came on the long ball. The first was two-run job off the bat of Raul Ibanez on a change up, and the second was the 10th-pitch-turned-wall-scraper to Granderson. Before the Ibanez at bat, Shields did such a good job of getting Robinson Cano to ground into a drawn-in infield to erase a man at third with one out, but couldn't finish the job with Raul.
  • Ibanez also had another homer, a pole smoker off ground-ball master Burke Badenhop.
  • The bullpen wasn't so shiny tonight. Badenhop, Jake McGee, and Joel Peralta combined for two innings and allowed two runs on four hits. Bright side: no walks?
  • The Rays made it interesting in the ninth by loading the bases on two walks and a Sean Rodriguez single through the left side. David Robertson certainly showed some weakness in his first try at the post-Rivera closing gig, but, as you'll recall from above, he had a little help in slamming the door.
  • Ahh, I almost (wish I had) forgot this fun part of the game: With one out in the seventh, Jeff Keppinger walked and Will Rhymes doubled down the right field line. It looked like Kepp would make an attempt to go home, but was held at third by Tom "Dave" Foley. With one out, Sean Rodriguez would fly out to right, but it was deemed to shallow to send Kepp home. Jose Molina couldn't repeat his magic from earlier and K'd to strand the runners and end the inning. Woof.
  • Tomorrow "Big Nyquil" Jeff Niemann takes on David Phelps @ 7:05 PM. Here's to swinging the bats and righting the ship.
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