CC Sabathia vs Erik Bedard would have been quite the matchup if this were 2007. In 2014, it's a battle of soft-tossing lefties who are lucky to see a pitch or two inch above 90 mph.
Before the game, we learned that Heath Bell was DFA'd in favor of a fresher arm for the bullpen in Nate Karns. If Bedard had exploded and ended up with a short outing, the Rays would have been in a bit of trouble with that tired pen. Karns was the perfect fit, since he would have been the scheduled starter for the Durham Bulls today. Bedard wouldn't need him.
Logan Forsythe batted lead off and played third base today to allow a rest day for Ben Zobrist and a restful DH day for Evan Longoria. In the first inning, Forsythe got started early as he took a 3-1 mistake pitch deep to left that couldn't have been more than an inch or two from a homer. He ended up with a double. It looked like CC was aiming in, but the ball caught a lot of plate and Logan punished him appropriately. A Desmond Jennings bunt moved Forsythe to third, and a Longo ground rule double knocked him in to take an early lead. 1-0 Rays.
Erik Bedard is an incredibly slow pitcher. Everything about him. He stands there. He stares at home plate. He stares at runners. He stands there some more. Even his wind up and delivery seem to happen at a snail's pace. Yet even the slowest pitcher can seem pretty speedy when he's tossing 1-2-3 innings. Bedard had a few of those, including the first.
In the bottom of the 2nd, Mark Teixeira lead off by taking a Bedard curve to right center for a single. Alfonso Soriano took the very next pitch into right center as well for a double. Tex to third. Two on, no outs. The wily Canadian got his first one by inducing a Kelly Johnson pop up with a ballsy left on lefty change up. Unfortunately, Yangervis Solarte tied up the game with a sac fly that scored Tex courtesy of a weak Guyer throw. I couldn't help but grit my teeth a little after a Bedard wild pitch that moved Soriano to 3rd, but Bedard ended the inning on a Brett Gardner foul tip strike out. Tied 1-1.
The 3rd inning was fun. This was where the magic happened. After a Forsythe fly out to right, Jennings launched a liner to left that looked like it was going out. Instead, it bounced off the wall then off of Gardner's foot and ended up being Deezy's 9th double of the year. Longo was understandably walked on four pitches (dude was hitting .421 off of Sabathia), but Myers made him pay in a memorable way.
A little bit of foreshadowing here. If you'll recall, Wil Myers hit his first big league homer off of Sabathia in Yankee Stadium... a grand slam. He's also the proud owner of a 12 game hitting streak in the Bronx. In this at bat, Wil launched a 2-2 pitch to center that looked gone off the bat. We got to see a vintage Wil Myers Bat Flip and trot, but wait! The ball bounced off the padding on the center field wall, then bounced off the chest of Jacoby Ellsbury who fell down trying to make the catch. Carlos Beltran was either taking the play off or practicing being a monument out there (h/t Jason Collette), because dude was nowhere to be found. Myers turned his trot into a full sprint and hustled home for an INSIDE-THE-PARK 3 RUN HOME RUN! Earl Weaver would have been elated. This play had it all. A lot of fun and something you don't see every day. 4-1 Rays.
Bedard dominated the bottom of the frame with another 3 up 3 down inning.
In the 4th, Forsythe singled to center for the Rays 8th hit after a Hanigan K. Jennings followed up with a single past Tex into right, but Forsythe didn't dare try for third on Beltran's arm. Longo grounded to Tex in what could have been a double play, had CC decided to make any effort to cover first base. Instead only Deezy was out at 2nd and Logan moved to 3rd. Myers punished him again, scorching a liner down the line to left scoring Forsythe for his 4th RBI of the day. 5-1 Rays and that would be it for CC Sabathia. Alfredo Aceves came in for relief and actually ended up finishing the game for the Yanks.
CC's final line: 77 pitches, 3.2 IP, 10H, 5R, 5ER, 1BB, 3K
I want to make sure we don't overlook the contributions from Desmond Jennings in this game. Dude should be right there on the podium with Myers and Bedard for what he did today. In the bottom of the 4th, after Bedard walked Soriano (his first and only one of those) and Kelly Johnson doubled, Deezy had to go back on a Solarte line drive, but made a nice catch to escape the inning cleanly.
Things got dicey in the 5th. Gardner got on with a bunt single thanks to an errant Hanigan throw to Loney. Gardner likely would have been safe anyway, but it would have been close had the throw been on target (assuming that said target was not Brett Gardner's backside). That dude is fast. Bradenton's John Ryan Murphy advanced Gardner with a single to left. 2 on, nobody out. Joe got Brandon Gomes warming in the pen. No need. Bedard managed to squirm out of the jam in impressive fashion. Ellsbury K'd looking, the Captain flew out to right, and Beltran grounded out to Roddy. Threat over.
The 5th also provided a special treat as Todd Kalas had Rays owner $tu $ternberg model one of the DJ Kitty hats that will be given away next weekend. I'll tell you what. All jokes aside, like nomo.red.evil mentioned in the GDT, it's pretty neat having an owner who genuinely seems to enjoy the game of baseball. He'll pause any interview to watch the action on the field unfold, and today I noticed he was keeping score the old fashioned way with a scorecard and a pencil. Just like my grandfather taught me long ago. Can you imagine Jeffrey Loria doing that?
Next, Bedard cruised through the 6th inning. This time 3 up 3 down on only 5 pitches.
In the 7th, Bedard was pulled after allowing a Solarte line drive single. Final line: 85 pitches, 6.0IP, 6H, 1R, 1ER, 1BB, 3K. I'll take that all day.
Jake McGee came in to relieve Bedard with 1 on, no outs, and showed why he's the go to guy in these high-leverage spots. Gardner knocked a tapper back to the mound that deflected off of McGee's glove, just slightly out of his reach. Runners safe. This one looked like a possible DP ball, but nothing is certain with Gardner's speed. It wouldn't matter. Murphy flew out to right and did not advance the runners. Ellsbury grounded another possible DP opportunity to 2nd, but only Gardner would be out. Those two speedsters are not the best combo when you're looking for a GIDP. Thankfully, the Yankees are still trotting Derek Jeter out there to level the playing field. He grounded out to end the inning.
The bottom of the 8th brought us another addition to the Desmond Jennings Highlight Reel. With rain coming down, Soriano launched a deep fly ball to the warning track that Deezy had to cover an enormous amount of ground to get to. He got there and made an impressive over the shoulder catch on the run when he did. Both feet in. Touchdown.
A wild as ever Grant Balfour came in to finish the job in the 9th. His walk of Solarte was only the second base on balls by a Rays pitcher in this game. It wouldn't matter. Balfour locked down the win, and allowed me to recap my first ever Rays win! This whole "get out to an early lead and keep it" thing was fun. Maybe it will catch on!