This is what a Jeremy Hellickson start looks like. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
Four days off. That doesn’t seem like a lot of time, but a lot can happen in four days. That’s long enough for me to forget the slow creeping despair of a season slipping away (although it only took one day to remind me). That’s long enough for Maddon to decide that Elliot Johnson is a leadoff hitter against lefties (I know that almost no amount of time should make this happen, but given infinite chances, all things happen, so the longer the break, the greater the chance we come back with Elliot batting first). It’s apparently also long enough for someone at mlb.tv to forget that they need to press the record button.
No, I don’t even live in the area. No, I didn’t even watch the game. I tried, I really did, but there was nothing to watch until halfway through the sixth inning. And from the sound of it on the radio, I wasn’t missing much.
The Sox opened up the scoring when Ortiz blasted a two out homer in the first. Hellickson had worked him away with four straight pitches, and then offered up a middle-in cutter, which Ortiz somewhat predictably crushed. He tossed his bat and pirouetted in one of the more disrespectful manners I've seen. Now, I don't believe in this type of narrative, but I do dislike the Red Sox, so I'll try. It goes something like this: "Ortiz is a showboater. He does not have class, he does not respect the game. In the better, older days, players just rounded the bases and took their run, rather than showing up the pitcher, the opposing team, and the fans." If it was right to plunk batters for how they admire there home runs (I don't think it is), it would be right to plunk Ortiz.
In the second inning, it was more of Hellickson at his worst. He struck out the first batter, but then walked the next two and hit the fourth to load the bases. Next, Pedro Ciriaco hit a grounder back up the middle. Hellickson gestured at it but pulled his glove back. It seems like he deked Keppinger on the play, because Kepp went to second rather than taking an angle to the ball, and it rolled into center field, scoring two. Hellickson would improve as the game went on, striking out five and allowing five hits in his six innings of works. But if you’re also going to walk four in addition to hitting a batter in that span, you’re not leaving yourself a whole lot of margin for error.
Maybe the only other interesting thing to happen in the early parts of the game (as the Rays offense sure didn’t provide any interest), was that Boston first basemen Mauro Gomez was charged with an error when the ball went through his glove. You can say, speaking figuratively, that an error prone player has "a hole in his glove," but Gomez’s hole was quite literal. Often, when players miss a catch, they’ll look at their glove as if it has let them down. First time I’ve witnessed that being being the case.
Recap of what I did see below the jump.
The top of the seventh saw some high leverage managerial weirdness. After Ciriaco singled on a bloop that fell in between Upton, Zobrist, and Keppinger, Maddon pulled Hellickson for J.P. Howell with the lefty Ellsbury due up. Ellsbury grounded a single through the right side, but J.P. rebounded to strike out the righty, Nava. Next, he got into a 2-0 count against Ortiz. Bobby Valentine sent Andrian Gonzalez to the on deck circle, as if to say, "don’t even try to walk the bases loaded." Maddon wasn’t buying it (or didn’t care) and called for the intentional walk anyway, after which point Valentine brought Gonzalez back to the dugout and allowed Mauro Gomez (lefty, rookie) to hit in his regular spot. He hit into an inning ending double play. So my question is this, Bobby – if you thought a potential Gonzalez vs. Howell with the bases loaded matchup was scary enough to change the opposing manager’s decision making, isn’t that matchup actually worth creating?
Kyle Farnsworth pitched a dominant eighth inning, with a groundout, a strikeout swinging, and a strikeout looking.
In the bottom of the inning, Vicente Padilla threw a 55 mph curve for a first pitch strike against Zobrist. He tried to double up on it, and Zorilla lined it to the wall in right center for a double. Upton hit a sinking liner into right that Sweeney needed to slide to get to. Seeing his slide, Zobrist tried to tag up and advance, but Sweeney popped up and fired a good throw to the cutoff man who relayed it to Punto at third. Zobrist might have been safe anyway, as I don’t think Punto actually got a tag initially, but he did block the base with his leg. Zobrist slid through him and shook him up, but wasn’t able to maintain contact with the bag, and Punto sprawled on him for the late tag.
It was a good day for Ciriaco (three hits), but it was also a bit of a rough day. While stealing third base, he got hit in the head by Lobaton’s throw. Later, while bunting a batter over, he dove headfirst into first base, and got hit in the head by Rodriguez’s knee as he ran to the bag.
Badenhop started the top of the ninth. He allowed a double, and then had that runner bunted over to third. Maddon brought on McGee to put out the fire, and he did. He struck out Ellsbury on three straight fastballs in the zone, and then worked a longer at bat to Cody Ross that ended with a popup into short left.
The Rays will try to get their second half back on the right track against Clay Buchholz tomorrow at 7:10.