If you stayed up late to watch that one, yeesh bud, I'm sorry.
These folks get how I feel at this point. You understand me, Hungry Angels Fans. It's no fun writing about a loss, much less a stunning walk-off loss where the Rays had a 96.8% of winning at one point. So let's rip the band-aid off early.
Bottom of the Ninth
With the Rays up 5-2, Maddon called to Grant Balfour. Hank Conger was the first batter he faced, and Grant quickly got ahead of him 1-2. And yet, he wasn't able to put him away. Conger worked an 8-pitch walk which brought up pinch hitter Efren Navarro. Again Balfour quickly got ahead 0-2, but again wasn't able to put him away, and walked the second straight man. With no outs, Grant had given free passes to the 8 and 9 hitters with Collin Cowgill up. Cowgill never got the chance to walk as he thumbed a grounder to right field, scoring one runner and putting the Angels within two runs. Maddon had seen enough, and with Mike Trout up next he called to Brad Boxberger. Trout didn't waste much time. On the third pitch of the at-bat, Trout absolutely crushed one into the left field seats. Game over, Angels win 6-5.
Ugh, that sucks, I know. I honestly didn't see that ending coming, even when Trout was up with runners at the corners with no outs. But here's the thing: a lot of good things happened before that lousy ninth inning. I swear I'm not whitewashing the outcome. This was a crappy loss that moves the Rays back to 6 games below .500 and 4.5 back of the AL East-leading O's. It was expedited by a closer that has not been the kind of shut-down guy we'd all been hoping he would be. We're all starting to slowly doubt a team that just looked so, so airtight in Spring Training (as teams so often do.) I'm pissed. But honestly, up until that point, the starting pitching had been solid, the bullpen had been legit, and the offense had been getting some timely hits.
For the rest of this recap, I'm mostly going to focus on the tone of the game up to this point, and the tone of the game was pretty good. Why bother, you may ask? Maybe I think that focusing on the positives is the key to a happy and long life. Maybe I'm of the belief that ridiculous losses like this aren't really the makeup of this team and they're about one Alex Cobb away from going on a 27-winning streak and shaking up the East. Or maybe I had already written the majority of this recap by the 8th inning and I steadfastly refuse to change it. Take your pick, just know that whichever one you choose says more about you than anything else.
Erik Bedard Was Pretty Good
Conventional wisdom might tell you to praise what Erik Bedard did tonight. One might even call him the star of the game for the Rays. Considering he started the season as essentially the 6th starter, he's managed to perform pretty dang well over the past four starts. Over the past 22 and 2/3 innings, he's given up 2 earned runs for an ERA of very low, better than any of us ever dreamed of getting from our 35-year lefty. Tonight, he gave up 2 runs (none earned) on 4 hits and 1 walk through 5.2 innings. And sure, absolutely, he is deserving of praise. Well done, Erik Bedard. Very, very well done.
But you know what Bedard didn't do? HIT A HOME RUN SO GOSH DARN HIGH IT GOT CAUGHT IN THOR'S GLORIOUS BEARD AND FELL BACK TO THIS PITIFUL MORTAL REALM.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
The Rays and the Angels both put up perfect innings in the first. In the top of the second, the Rays seemed to grow wise to Tyler Skaggs' game-plan, which up until that point was "Throw them a fastball." Skaggs threw 19 straight fastballs until finally throwing a curveball to Yunel Escobar. By that time the Rays had runners on first and second with 1 out, and once Escobar grounded out who was up next but...
Note: I did not speed up this GIF. Brandon Guyer's just on a whole 'nother level.
Not a lot happened offensively for a while. Bedard retired the first 8 men in order, and Skaggs did a very good job of changing his attack plan against the Rays. Towards the middle innings he started throwing more breaking stuff (Skaggs' curveball in particular looked quite good) and the Rays kept getting fooled by it. Of note was the play Desmond Jennings made in the top of the 4th inning. With a runner on third, C.J. Cron crushed a ball to left-center that Desmond Jennings went back to get and...
Upon review I really can't tell if it would've been a home run, but either way Jennings channeled the ghost of Mike Trout to make a then-game-saving catch in center field.
The Angels put up a serious threat in the fifth. With a runner on first and one out, Grant Green lined a ball to center and tried to stretch it into a double, but was ruled out at second. Nonetheless, the Angels challenged the call, and upon review it was clear Green slid around the tag. LA had runners on second and third with one out, but Bedard managed to escape the threat by striking out Luis Jimenez and inducing a ground out from Collin Cowgill.
Again, hat tip to Bedard, but tightroping out of a potentially game changing situation is nothing compared to what Brandon Guyer, Probable 2014 AL Rookie of the Year (TM) did earlier that inning. MVGuyer 'bout to put on a clinic for all y'all fools:
GUYER WATCH 2014: ROY EDITION
ummmm is Mr. Guyer related to Tom Cruise's character in The Color of Money because all I see is some hustle. Was this ball a delicious ring-shaped pastry 'cause that BUNT was a piece of CAKE for him. Oh, did I forget the "d?" Well Brandon Guyer never does. Check out this second inning gem:
HOOOOOOOBOY they should rename the Gold Glove the GUYER GLOVE (wordplay). If he doesn't win an award this year imma set all my shirts on fire, run into the forest, and throw rocks at squirrels. But hey listen if you thought he was just a pretty face and a defensive wunderkind LEMME PUT YOU STRAIGHT JACK
IN CASE YOU FORGOT.
Astute readers will notice that the ball seems to disappear just before leaving the field. One might assume it's due to the extremely low quality of this GIF. But you know what they say happens when you assume, don't you? It turns out Guyer hit this ball so hard it briefly left our dimension, traveled miles in the blink of an eye, and landed in an old woman's coffee cup in Poughkeepsie. Scientists immediately quarantined Angel Stadium of Anaheim to study the effects of the quantum tunneling, but the inter-dimensional veil should be lifted by 10:05 ET tomorrow. I heard though that they'll have to keep Mike Trout under lock-and-key for a while, because any more home runs might create too many variables.
Back to the Game
In the top of the sixth the Rays mounted another threat. Logan Forsythe and Evan Longoria both reached base on a single and walk, respectively. Wil Myers then hit a ball that deflected off of the glove of Luis Jimenez into left field, scoring Forsythe. The left fielder Grant Green didn't hurry getting the ball in and Myers slid into second. James Loney then drove both men in with a single to right.
The Angels struck back in the bottom of the inning. After cruising through the first two batters, Bedard gave up singles to Howie Kendrick and C.J. Cron, with a run-scoring error by James Loney knocking Bedard out of the game. Brandon Gomes would come in, give up a cue shot single, and get promptly replaced by Jake McGee, who got out of the inning. Rays up 4-2.
Brandon Guyer's home run gave the Rays another insurance run (not like it mattered.) In the bottom of the inning, a reviewed play surprisingly similar to the one before occurred. With runners on first and second, Albert Pujols flied out to deep center. The runners tagged up and Mike Trout was ruled to be tagged out running from first to second. Trout leapt up and seemed adamant that he was indeed safe, and after a challenge he was shown to be right, as it was clear that the runner once again slid around the tag. Maddon then called to Joel Peralta, who struck out noted Ray-killer Howie Kendrick to retire the side.
If you actually stayed up this long to watch this terrible loss, great job, you earned a day off from work tomorrow. No need to call in, your boss will understand. I already sent him a text. He said it's fine but he wants an RSVP for the company picnic by Monday, because he needs to know how many deviled eggs his wife Jeanette should make.
The Rays play the second game of the four-game series at 10:05 ET tomorrow. Chris Archer (2-2, 5.16) looks to right the ship for the Rays against Jared Weaver (4-2, 3.22).