Win Probability table courtesy of Fan Graphs.
St. Petersburg-Jorge Velandia's first major league home run couldn't have come at a better time. Unfortunately for New York, that home run was accompanied by an infield full of Devil Rays baserunners. The result? A 6-5 Devil Ray lead that would eventually turn into a 7-6 extra inning win. In perhaps the only time a walkoff home run will be overshadowed by an earlier game event, Velandia hit a grand slam in the sixth inning to cap a six run rally that saw the Rays turn a 5-0 deficit into a one run lead.
The Rays seemingly were in the hole from the beginning as starter Jason Hammel gave up a run and allowed two additional baserunners before he recorded an out. The run would be the only one of the first inning as Hammel would rebound to get out of a jam, but Yankees 3B Álex Rodríguez hit a grand slam in the third inning to extend a 1-0 New York lead to a seemingly insurmountable 5-0 Yankee advantage. Hammel would labor through five innings and all five runs he allowed were earned, snapping a recent streak of productive starts as he left the Rays in dire straits upon his departure. That would change in the sixth inning.
Facing the possibility of having a series-opening smackdown handed upon them, the Rays responded with a six run frame in the sixth inning. After Dioner Navarro doubled in B.J. Upton for the team's first run of the ballgame, Navarro himself came home four batters later when Brian Bruney walked home Akinori Iwamura. After the next at bat, he could only wished to have missed the plate against Jorge Velandia, who smacked the second pitch he saw from Bruney about 10 rows deep into the left field seats to turn a 5-2 Rays deficit into an astonishing 6-5 lead. Velandia, called up several weeks ago to provide middle infield flexibility, has surprised in his 26 AB debut. Velandia had a 1.147 OPS through Tuesday night's game and it would appear that his success would ensure Brendan Harris' non-appearance for the remainder of the season.
But ultimately, like most every Devil Rays lead, it wasn't unmolested over the remainder of the game. Dan Wheeler surrendered a leadoff double in the eighth when Rays LF Jonny Gomes misplaced a fly ball from Jorge Posada on the warning track. Posada was singled over to third by Robinson Cano, and he came home two at bats later on a sacrifice fly by Melky Cabrera when Dioner Navarro couldn't handle the throw at the plate. The biggest out of the game recorded by the Tampa Bay pitching staff might have come two at bats after that, when Derek Jeter struck out with runners at the corners to keep the game tied. Jeter finished with two hits on the night, while LF Johnny Damon added five hits in five at bats to help contribute to the cause for New York.
Ultimately neither team would score for the next two full innings as the two teams headed to the 10th. But it didn't take too long for the game to terminate after the Rays' half of the inning started, as Navarro blasted the third pitch he saw over RF Bobby Abreu into the bleachers for the walkoff home run. The home run was Navarro's ninth of the year; he has a .961 OPS in the month of September. Gary Glover took the win for Tampa Bay after a scoreless tenth while Jeff Karstens took the responsibility for the loss after surrendering the game-ending gopher ball. The game lasted over four hours total and was witnessed by 24,503 at Tropicana Field, most of whom were obviously decked out in navy blue and white.
7:10; RAYS TV
RAYS RADIO/WHNZ 1250 AM
|LH Kei Igawa
|RH Jason Hammel
LH Kei Igawa, New York:
Overview: Japanese disappointment Kei Igawa makes a last minute spot start for Roger Clemens as the Yankees head into St. Petersburg trying to one-up the Red Sox for the AL East crown in the season's final week. Tonight's game will be key for the Yankees in furthering that goal, and they will be relying on Igawa to give them a good starting effort. That reliance may very well be misplaced. Igawa, who was signed to a five year, $20 million agreement and expected to finally provide a solid answer to the Yankees' back of the rotation problems. Unfortunately he has contributed to their woes, posting a 6.75 ERA and proving to be very hittable in his rookie season. He has shown an unimpressive repertoire of pitches and was actually demoted to High A earlier this season. He is on his third stint with the major league ballclub, a stint originally begun with him working in relief on September 22nd. However Clemens' injury has necessitated his spot start this evening, and that may be to the Rays' benefit.
Recent Starts: Igawa has not started a game for the major league Yankees since the 26th of July, though he pitched one-third of an inning in relief for the Yankees on September 22nd in Toronto; his first appearance with the team since being recalled. He started one game for Scranton/Wilkes-Barre in their playoff series with Durham, giving up two runs over five innings in a no-decision. He had a 3.69 ERA over 11 starts this season for New York's AAA ballclub.
vs RAYS: Tampa Bay lucked out in drawing Igawa twice this season, timing themselves correctly to face him in each of his major league stints: once at home and once on the road. Igawa has an 8.68 ERA in those two appearances. He faced them on April 23rd at Tropicana Field and gave up seven runs over 4.1 innings of work. He fared slightly better when he faced them at Yankee Stadium on the 21st of July, when he gave up just two runs over five innings. No Rays hitter has faced Igawa in more than five at bats, though B.J. Upton already has belted two home runs in just four at bats against him.
RH Jason Hammel, RAYS:
Overview: The 2007 rotation is open, and Jason Hammel wants to assert his claim to one of the spots going into the offseason. Though he carries the baggage of a 5.88 ERA overall, Hammel has done far better since his ERA peaked at 7.44 on August 28th. He has a 2.35 ERA over his last four starts, striking out 17 and walking just four while holding opposing hitters to a .247/.295/.348 line over that time. His recent performance has lended hope to the possibility that he may finally be realizing his talent, but his window of opportunity is closing quickly as Tampa Bay's other top prospects start to come within reach of the major leagues. It is integral for him to continue his late season run and leave a good impression in his wake if he plans to have a starting role in the Rays' future.
Recent Starts: As mentioned previously, Hammel's last four starts are the driving force behind the recent streak of optimism surrounding his future, and hopefully he can keep it up as the season draws to a close. Perhaps more impressive than anything else about Hammel's recent run is the fact that it has come against good baseball teams. All of his last four starts have come against .500+ teams, with three of those teams being legitimate playoff contenders at the time he faced them. Last time out against Anaheim, Hammel took the loss despite surrendering just two runs over six innings of work as he lowered his ERA back below six. Of continuing concern is his inability to pitch deep into games even while successful; he pitched no more than six innings in any of his efforts while his pitch count consistently came within a couple throws of 100 total. Hammel will need to prove the ability to longer into games if he is to be taken seriously as a starting candidate.
vs NYY: Hammel has faced the Yankees five times over the last two seasons, four in this season and three total in a starting role, and he has been successful on the whole. He had one poor start against the Yankees last year that lives to inflate his career ERA against the Bronx Bombers, but he has a 2.70 ERA overall in 10 innings of work against New York this season. He last faced them on September 2nd in Yankee Stadium, the initiation point of his current monthlong tear. In five innings Hammel spotted New York just one run, walking none and striking out seven in what may be his most impressive start so far in the streak. He also faced the Yankees back on July 21st in his first start of the season and gave up two runs over four innings. He gave up no runs to the Yankees over an inning of relief work. No Yankee player really has any large track record against him because of his relatively short career, though Alex Rodriguez, Hideki Matsui, and Robinson Cano have each homered off of him in six at bats each. Bobby Abreu is 3 for 8 against Hammel all-time with a walk, he being the Yankee with the most plate appearances against the Rays' righty.