If you woke up from a coma last week and started watching baseball for the first time in a decade, you would have a hard time believing me when I told you that Chris Davis was not in fact the best player in the world. For the Tampa Bay Rays, they will surely be happy to see him leave.
The Baltimore Orioles first-baseman continued his torrid pace today, slugging his third home run of the series, a two run shot, to give the Orioles an early lead for the third time in as many days. After shrugging off a plunk to the hip, he would later drive in two more runs with a ringing double to left that rolled all the way to the wall after Matt Joyce took a questionable route to the liner. Only Caesar Ramos managed to contain Davis, breaking his bat with a fastball inside and then inducing a ground out to the mound on the next pitch that elicited a raucous cheer from the Tropicana Field faithful. Ramos would surrender a two-run homerun to Orioles shortstop J.J. Hardy to round out the scoring.
Rays starter, Roberto Hernandez pitched a decent game, scattering six hits over 6.2 innings and allowing two walks. Hernandez seemed to have good control, and was inducing whiffs on his two-seam fastball, recording seven strikeouts on the day. The sinkerballer also induced eight groundballs to only four flyballs. However, he couldn't control Chris Davis.
Davis again did his damage on good pitches on the fringes of the strikezone, belting his homerun on a 2-2 pitch on the outer half and his double on a pitch down and away.
It's Chris Davis' world and we are all just living in it.
Meanwhile, Orioles right-hander Miguel Gonzalez befuddled the Rays batters, holding them hitless for the first 4 innings before an Evan Longoria single spurned a rally two-run rally. After Shelly Duncan struck out, Yunel Escobar, James Loney and Jose Molina singled to bring home two runs and tie the score, if only briefly as Davis lurked in the top of the 6th. The Rays would add a third run in the 9th inning on one of the most unusual plays you'll see this year, and one that has gotten much of the attention from this game.
With two on and no out in the 9th inning, Orioles manager Buck Showalter turned to his closer, Jim Johnson, to deal with Longoria. Longo belted a double deep off the left centerfield wall but appeared to come close to passing Ben Zobrist on the basepaths as Zobrist was holding up incase the ball was caught. A run scored and Zobrist wound up at third but the first base umpire ruled that Longoria had passed Zobrist on the basepaths and called him out. A lenghty argument by Joe Maddon fell on deaf ears and the Rays would fail to score again, falling 6-3 to the O's and 1-2 on the young season.
Video of the controversial play can be seen here, however it is hard to tell from the single shown camera angle if Longoria did indeed pass Zobrist. However, it does appear that the umpires were not watching the play and should not have been in a position to make an out call.
Maddon told the post-game media crowd that Longoria has to be more careful, referencing traffic laws that when someone is rear ended it is the driver in the back that is at fault, however Zobrist said that he made a mistake not moving closer to second base on the play. Longoria disagreed with the call but quipped that Davis was too much for them, regardless of the commotion in the 9th. According to post game notes, this is the second time that Longo has run past Zobrist on the bases as it also happened in 2011.
While the blunder will get most of the press, the fact remains that the Rays offense fell relatively flat against an average arm in Gonzalez and the vaunted pitching staff gave up another handful of runs. The Orioles scored 20 runs in the three game set, including 9 off the bullpen that was so dominant in 2012. While the defense looked strong again, the pitchers have to do a better job of finishing batters and closing out innings as the Orioles again did the majority of their damage with two outs and often with two strikes.