When a player you like has been struggling at the plate, while taking tons of abuse from the local fans and media, you start pulling extra hard for them to succeed. It almost feels like you're a parent watching your child struggle in Little League. You know the talent is there, but for one reason or another hasn't manifested itself in awhile. When your kid finally does break out of his funk you beam with pride. Finally, you think.
That's what it felt like watching B.J. Upton and Carlos Pena contribute heavily in last night's 8-5 victory over the White Sox. If only for one night the two struggling Rays emerged to have big games for an offense that had been lackluster of late.
A night after hitting an encouraging triple, Upton crushed a home run in the 5th inning off White Sox starter John Danks. The homer was especially encouraging considering the location of the pitch. It was a high fastball near the outside corner and Upton turned on it, launching it into the left field seats. Upton's had trouble turning on fastballs this season, so that was a very nice sight to see. He also had two walks and made a fantastic catch in center. It's nights like these that make you realize just how good Upton can be.
While Upton had a good night, no one needed their hit more than Carlos Pena. As badly as Upton had looked at the plate, Pena has looked worse. After taking the lead on a safetyy squeeze and then loading the bases with no outs on another bunt(!), the Rays looked poised to break the game open. But Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria each failed to produce a run, leaving Pena to be the hero. And hero he was, hitting a bases clearing double to left center that gave the Rays a 6-2 lead. I don't think anyone in baseball deserved that hit more than Carlos Pena. When Upton and Pena are hitting like this, it's really hard to see this team dropping too many games.
Wade Davis rebounded from a rough outing last week against the Red Sox. The rookie wasn't dazzling by any means, but he got the job done. His four seam fastball was effective, registering 73% strikes on the night, but only 3 of the swinging variety. Those 3 swinging strikes would be the only whiffs he'd record in his 110 pitches. Cutting down on the home runs would be nice, but for a 5th starter Davis has done his job.
-The rays laid down 4 bunts and didn't record an out on any of them. That's gotta be some kind of record, doesn't it?
-Maddon'slefty heavy lineup seemed to pay off with Pena, John Jaso, and Reid Brignac coming up with key hits.
-Speaking of Brignac, he should get a chance to play on a more regular basis now that Jason Bartlett is day to day with a right hamstring injury. Who else was silently pumping their fist when they saw him limping off the field? Not that I want him to be injured, I'd just like to see Brignac play shortstop full time.
-I hope no one was injured on the absolute laser that Carlos Quentin hit into the left field seats. My god that was hit hard.
-Thank you, Yankees, for somehow losing that game to Cleveland.