July 2, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays second baseman Brooks Conrad (36) is congratulated by left fielder Desmond Jennings (8) after he scored the game winning run in the seventh inning at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays defeated the New York Yankees 4-3 Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
Had I told you the Rays beat the Yankees at Tropicana Field for the eighth straight time you may not find that strange. Had I told you they did it despite two misplays in the field -- one that lead to a run -- and Sean Rodriguez, Brooks Conrad and Elliot Johnson would come up big in the seventh inning despite two of them not starting the game you may have called me crazy.
The Rays came from behind in the type of win they seemingly haven't had in some time. The first half of the game was right in line with the Rays play of late: The defense misplayed a ball leading to a run, the pitching was so-so and the offense had yet to come alive.
After a lead off double by Derek Jeter and a ground out by Granderson, Mark Teixeira hit a pop fly to right field, sending Hideki Matsui chasing after it. Having limited experience in right field, and not being a good fielder to begin with, Matsui over ran the ball, watching it fall to his right, allowing Jeter to easily score from third. Singles by Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano drove in Teixeira before Nick Swisher grounded into a double play. If Matsui catches that ball then the Yankees are likely held to one run. Because the ball didn't touch his glove it's not officially an error, but it could have ended up costing the Rays the game.
After that first inning Matt Moore settled down a bit, allowing five hits over his next six innings, though he did also walk three. His command was off most of the night, constantly missing his fastball inside to right handed hitters as you can see in the plot below:
He ran into more issues in the seventh inning. After Carlos Pena tied the game in the sixth inning with a home run to right field, Moore proceeded to walk the leadoff hitter, Chris Stewart, then allowed him to advance on a wild pitch. Two fly ball outs later and the Yankees had retaken the lead. Walking the leadoff hitter seems to come back to bite you in the ass more often than not. Lucky, the law firm of Rodriguez, Conrad and Johnson was there to pick up the pieces.
After Ben Zobrist grounded out Joe Girardi brought in left handed Boone Logan to face left handed Luke Scott. In response, Joe Maddon pinch hit the right handed Sean Rodriguez. Despite strong career numbers against southpaws Rodriguez has struggled this season but was able to coax a walk out of Logan. After a Jose Lobaton pop out Girardi again made a pitching change, bringing in David Robertson. In response, Maddon had Brooks Conrad pinch hit for Will Rhymes and he proceeded to smash a double off the wall in right, just missing a home run and allowing Rodriguez to score the tying run. Johnson was next up and hit a sharp grounder to first that tailed away from the bag...and somehow got past the usually sure-handed Teixeira, rolling all the way to the wall by the bullpen, allowing Conrad to score what would be the winning run.
The Rays haven't had many breaks like that go their way this season. Earlier in the game, it seemed like their luck would never change as Zobrist missed a two-run homer by mere inches and Luke Scott smoked a ball that was caught at first, doubling up Keppinger in the process. Thankfully, one domino fell in the Rays favor tonight. Hopefully one of many.