Whew. Where to even begin?
I'll start with a little dose of honesty. When I saw that I was scheduled to recap today's game, I knew I wouldn't be home to do so until mid-afternoon. I always like to watch the games that I recap live, so that I can ride the emotional ups and downs with all of you in real time, and have that be a part of what I write. Oh well, I said. I'll just set the DVR and get caught up when I get home. Then I saw the pitching matchup. King Felix vs Chris Archer? Shoot. I may not even need to.
And ya know what? I was pretty much spot on.
Now, if you're a King Felix fan, or a fan of strikeouts in general, the first seven innings of this ballgame were a lusty affair. Felix would set a career high in strikeouts with fifteen, and notch his 1,800th career strikeout on an Evan Longoria swinging K in the 3rd.
Matt Joyce also managed to put out a fire a little later in the 5th with a leaping catch on a bases loaded fly ball that would have allowed two runs at the very least.
Aside from that, though, my DVR'ing was a wasted effort. Much like Chris Archer's start. Today's game was another solid outing from the smiling righty, who would call it a day in the 7th inning with a final line of 90 pitches, 6.1 IP, 5H, 0R, 0ER, 1BB and 2K.
McGee came in to finish the 7th in typical effective McGee fashion.
In the bottom of the inning, Zobrist would make it all the way to third (!!) with a single, a steal and an advance on a wild pitch, but DeJesus, Joyce and Escobar would all strike out to waste his wheels.
Joel Peralta pitched a quality 8th, allowing a Cano single and steal of second, but retiring Jones, Seager and Zunino to stall him there.
In the bottom of the 8th, still scoreless, Jennings managed to walk with one out, but Kevin "Lone Bright Spot" Kiermaier would line into a double play to end the inning. Too much Shelton hitting instruction is the only way I can explain it.
And then the 9th happened.
Let me... hold on... yep. Still can't. I can't manage to wash the stank of Grant Balfour off me long enough to write this recap. Balfour reeked today in the 9th inning. Much like spoiled food, Balfour started out as something perfectly palatable. He struck out Dustin Ackley and Cole Gillespie on fastballs to bring Brad Miller to the plate. The same Brad Miller who came into the AB batting a Molina-esque .169.
Let me set the scene for you. No score. 2 outs. 2 strikes on Miller, 0-2 count. Completely inept big league batter at the plate. What does Balfour do? He allows a triple down the first base line on the next pitch. Then he walks Bloomquist. Then he allows Endy Chavez to punch one through just out of the reach of Escobar to score an elated Miller. 1-0. But he wouldn't stop there. No. Balfour would then allow Jones to triple as well and knock in 2 more runs. 3-0. Still not done. Robbie Cano walk. Kyle Seager double to score Jones and Cano. 5-0. Balfour narrowly avoided giving up three straight triples, as Seager did advance to third on a Zobrist error. All after having Brad FREAKING Miller 0-2 with 2 outs.
Balfy was booed HEARTILY by the 18,000 in attendance as he made his way to the dugout. I'm curious to see if he has anything to say about that this time. In the words of one of my favorite pitchers ever, "Don't like it? Pitch better.". Miss you, Jamey Shields. XOXOXO
The Rays would go quickly and quietly in the bottom of the 9th, shellshocked by Balfour's 9th Inning Festival of Suck and their own woes at the plate.
Here's the deal:
Your Tampa Bay Rays are 24-40, folks.
They have the worst record in Major League Baseball.
They were shut out for the 8th time today... that's the most in the American League.
They struck out 17 times today. Felix Hernandez is really good. Like REALLY good. But he's never been this good. No, literally. His 15 today were a career high.
Hey, maybe changes won't be made. Maybe Derek Shelton is the new Teflon Don and he'll be employed forever. Heck, maybe Joe and Andrew like what the bats are doing... all part of The Process. Maybe Joe will continue to look for the positives and change nothing, to the ire of Alex Cobb and everyone wearing a Rays cap at home.
Maybe not. Maybe today was a catalyst.