Back when I was a camp counselor, we used to have a story we'd pass around after particularly trying days. A few years back, there was a camper with Downs Syndrome that used to give the counselors fits -- sometimes from frustration, sometimes fits of laughter. He didn't understand the concept of boundaries (e.g. loved to grab at women's breasts); would say the most inappropriate things imaginable, like calling counselors "crack whores"; and he would never do what you wanted him to do. He was as contrarian as they come.
He was out on the low ropes course one day with his cabin, and he refused to do the activity that everyone else was doing. The counselors decided to take a new tact with him, and started explaining to him the concept of karma -- if you do good things, good things will happen to you. The universe has a way of leveling things out, ya know? He didn't buy it, storming off to mutterings of "Karma can suck mah balls!" and "You're a crack whore!"
He got around five steps away, though, when he tripped over the ropes course and face-planted in the dirt hard. The counselor with him rushed over to see if he was okay, and the camper just looked up at him from the ground and said, "Karma's a bitch."
Yeaaaah...sometimes karma's a bitch. And today, the Rays got their share in plenty.
Going into the eighth inning today, things were going soooo well for them. They'd beat the Yankees in the first two games of the series, and they were up 3-1 and a mere six outs away from moving up to two games ahead of the Boston Red Sox in the standings. Heck, they'd even had a stroke of good luck, as umpire's interference kept Alex Rodriguez from stealing third base in the top of the seventh, preventing him scoring later that inning on a deep fly ball. David Price had dominated the Yanks through seven full innings, and the Rays could turn things over to their deep bullpen and cruise on in for a sweep.
Unfortunately, the universe had a different idea. Joe Maddon had Kyle Farnsworth start the eighth inning, and Farnsy proceeded to pitch like Old-School Farnsworth -- he walked four batters in a row, loading the bases and pulling the Yanks to within one. Maddon then pulled Farnsworth and put in Jake McGee, but the damage had already been done; McGee got the final two outs, but not before allowing a single and letting the tying and winning runs score.
In Farnsworth's defense, things shouldn't have gotten that bad. After walking the first hitter, he struck out Derek Jeter and then came appeared to strike out Curtis Granderson as well; unfortunately, the third-base umpire thought Granderson had checked his swing in time (note: he hadn't), so Granderson got a free pass to first base instead. That decision changed the whole complexion of the inning, and things kept spiraling out of control from there.
Initially, I was okay with Maddon using Farnsworth in that situation; it was the start of an inning, so even though it was only his second appearance back from the DL, it wasn't a terribly high pressure situation at first. But then Maddon left Farnsworth in there for way too long and let the inning get into very dangerous territory. This was one of those rare instances where I was questioning Maddon's decision in the moment, and I still think it wasn't the best idea.
But....well, stuff happens. The Rays got a lucky break or two in the game, and they had luck turn against them at a crucial moment as well. They still took two of three from the Yankees, and considering how this team had been playing of late, that's a huge positive.
- Carlos Pena had a fantastic game today, going 1-2 with a two-run homerun (which put the Rays ahead in the seventh inning) and a walk and a hit-by-pitch. He also had a good scoop on a throw from Elliot Johnson in the seventh inning, allowing the Rays to escape from a first-and-third, two outs situation without allowing another run to score. EJ had a nice stop up the middle in the eighth inning that prevented a run from going home, but he needs to stop lollygagging some throws in.
- Luke Scott is in about as deep a funk at the plate as you can be. He's 0-36 now, only ten plate appearances away from tying the all-time record set by Bill Bergen in 1909. And man, he looked lost at the plate today; he struck out three times and popped out meekly in his only other plate appearance. The umpires didn't help him out any, though, ringing him up in the eighth inning on a pitch that was well outside. When it rains, it pours.
- The Rays were quite anemic on offense today, striking out a total of 16 times. That's one shy of tying their franchise record (17) and was the most ever for a 9-inning at the Trop.
- The Rays finish their homestand 3-4, and they're off to Cleveland to start a four game set against Cleveland tomorrow. After that, they'll be able to rest and recuperate over the All-Star Break. Here's hoping they get some reinforcements shortly after the break...