It seemed like just another night in the Rays' two week long struggle. The team was down 5-0, a lead that seemed far to great to overcome give the anemic offense this team had shown recently. I was even settling in to write this recap before the final our was recorded, resigned to defeat. Then something crazy happened. The Rays started to hit. Take a look at how effective this team can be when it's at its best. I'm only highlighting the good plays here:
-Dioner Navarro singles(!)
-Reid Brignac doubles, scoring Navarro
-Carl Crawford singles to center, Brignac scores
-Crawford advances to 2nd on a passed ball and to 3rd on an Evan Longoria ground out.
-Carlos Pena singles him home.
-Crawford walks, steals 2nd and advances to third on a Kevin Gregg throwing error.
-John Jaso walked
-Ben Zobrist walks, plating a run
-Sean Rodriguez doubles to center, scoring three runs
The team will have other come from behind victories this season, but I think this one is going to feel pretty special all year. They were struggling. The fans and media were growing restless. The Yankees, Red Sox, and Blue Jays were starting to creep up in the standings. It vaugely felt like the first game after the All-Star break in 2008, where Ben Zobrist hit the huge go-ahead home run off A.J. Burnett and the Blue Jays that helped snap a seven game losing kid. Ironically, Jason Bartlett missed time due to injury that series as well. The team could go out and play horribly tomorrow, but that won't change how much getting a win like this means.
The win comes behind Jeff Niemann's worst start of the season. The Big Nyquil allowed 5 runs in 6.1IP while striking out 4 and walking just one. If you just looked at his Pitch F/X data you wouldn't think Niemannpitched that poorly considering he generated nine swinging strikes on just 86 pitches. It was the long ball that would do him in, with Fred Lewis and John Buck hitting solo home runs while Adam Lindlaced a two run triple. It would be only the second time this season where Niemann failed to deliver a quality start.
More interesting than Niemann's pitching (and really, what's not?) was the couple of strange situations that developed on the offensive end of the spectrum. First, Joe Maddon abandoned the DH in the 6th inning. Yes, an American League Manager got rid of the DH position in the middle of a game. Maddon decided to pinch hit Hank Blalock for RF Gabe Kapler, thus moving DH Willy Aybar to 2B and Ben Zobristto the now departed RF position. I'm not sure how I feel about the move. While it didn't come back to haunt the Rays in any way, the team already has a short bench with Jason Bartlett being out, so it easily could have, especially since Hank Blalock was the pinch hitting option. I can't wait until Matt Joyce is called up. What did you all think?
The second incident involved Angel Hernandez andJoe West, to no ones surprise. With two men on and one out in the 9th inning, Carlos Pena requested time from Hernandez, the Home Plate Umpire. Pena figured since he had requested time long before the pitch was near ready to be thrown that it would be granted. He figured wrong, and Hernandez did not oblige him. With Pena having stepped out of the batter's box, the pitch was down the middle for a strike, ringing up the Rays' slugger. Blue Jays' closer Kevin Gregg wasn't even into his windup when Pena requested time, so it's not as if Pena requested in in haste. Pena argued the call briefly, but Joe Maddon cut him off before he could be ejected. However, Maddonwas a different story. After arguing withHernandez he was thrown out. Wanting to "make a stand", Maddon then ran out to give crew chief Joe West an ear full. You could see Maddon yelling "This is your fault!" as he argued withWest, with obvious reference to Joe West's mission to speed up the pace of baseball all on his own. I'm starting to wish that Manager's would leave West alone, mostly so he doesn't get the satisfaction of more attention being drawn him and his country music career.
The Rays made things interesting in the 9th, allowing Fred Lewis to reach on an error by Reid Brignac and then watching him speed home on a double by Vernon Wells that missed clearing the wall by a foot.
Two notes on the Blue Jays' offense:
-As RJ pointed out on Twitter last night, all the Jays do well offensively is hit home runs. They're team OBP is sub .320.
-Giants GM Brian Sabean looks like a bigger idiot with each passing day as Fred Lewis continues to tear up the AL East. At least the Giants have Pat Burrell coming up...
-They have 91 home runs already #ohmygodthatsalot