This game can be split into two parts: Innings 1-7 and Innings 8-9.
If you had only watched the first seven innings of the game you would have seen the same Rays who had played the month of June. The pitching wasn't good, and the offense was non-existent.
After a strong start in his last outing, Wade Davis got lit up like a Christmas tree this afternoon. The rookie right hander lasted only 4.1IP while giving up 8 hits, 4 runs, 3 home runs and 3 doubles. Six extra base hits in less than five innings of work is normally not conducive to success. He was throwing strikes - all of his pitches registered over a 55% strike rate - which is good, but that may have been part of his problem as well. Davis got only one swinging strike out of his 73 pitches. The Twins batters were jumping all over Davis' fastball, which he probably relied on too heavily. Only 16 of the 73 pitches were of the non fastball variety. This poor outing surely gives more credence to the Jeremy Hellickson movement. A movement I'm sadly starting to get on board with.
I'm willing to give the Rays offense a little break through the first seven innings only because they were facing one of the best pitchers in the game in Francisco Liriano. With all the talk about Cliff Lee's fantastic season Liriano's name sometimes gets lost in the shuffle. His record is just 6-6, which is another reason he isn't getting enough national attention. But he has a FIP of 2.19 and an xFIP of 3.00 while his batting average on balls in play is a staggering .355. That's amazing. The Rays got a look at just how amazing he was tonight. Liriano's final line is beautiful: 7IP, 4H, 1R, 1ER, 1BB, 10k with 13 swinging strikes. He was more untouchable than MC Hammer in 1990. Like David Price the night before it's a shame, for his sake at least, that he couldn't pick up the win.
Liriano didn't pick up the win because of Alex Burnett, Jose Mijares, and Matt Guerrier. The three relievers combined for 1IP, 6H, 7ER, 1BB, 0K, and 1 grand slam. That 8th inning was amazing. So amazing that I really don't know how to describe it. Here's the play by play:
|A. Burnett relieved F. Liriano|
|- J. Bartlett doubled to right|
|- S. Rodriguez singled to shortstop, J. Bartlett to third|
|- J. Mijares relieved A. Burnett|
|- C. Crawford ground rule double to left, J. Bartlett scored, S. Rodriguez to third|
|- M. Guerrier relieved J. Mijares|
|- E. Longoria singled to shallow left, S. Rodriguez scored, C. Crawford to third|
|- W. Aybar doubled to deep right center, C. Crawford scored, E. Longoria to third|
|- J. Jaso hit for K. Shoppach|
|- J. Jaso grounded out to first|
|- B.J. Upton walked|
|- B. Zobrist fouled out to first|
|- M. Joyce hit for G. Kapler|
|- M. Joyce homered to deep center, E. Longoria, W. Aybar and B.J. Upton scored|
|- J. Bartlett grounded out to third|
Matt Joyce can have my children. Bartlett's lead off double was assisted by the comedic stylings of Michael Cuddyer's RF glove work. Other than that, the Rays simply smacked the ball all over the field. Rafael Soriano relieved Grant Balfour in the 9th inning to record his 20th save of the season. The victory keeps the Rays within two games of the Yankees, and one game of Boston. Other than the extra inning game in Boston that took two days to complete, this was the most satisfying win of the season for me.
Other game notes:
-Congrats to Jim Thome for passing Harmon Killebrew for 10th on the all time home run list with 574.
-Matt Joyce's pinch hit grand slam was the Rays's first such grand slam since August of last season when Gregg Zaun took Brandon League deep. It was also Joyce's first home run in more than a year.
-Joyce is never wiping that smile off of his face.