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Back to Four

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And just like that, the the Rays are back to four games out of the wild card.  I know this September run is the longest of shots and after tonight it got a bit longer.  With the sweep out of the question, the Rays are left to scratch and claw their way to two games back before the final ten games of the season.

The game started out in the most promising of fashions when Desmond Jennings laid down a perfect bunt down the first base line on the first pitch of the game.  Josh Beckett tried to make a play and erred by bowling the ball to first base, which allowed Jennings to advance to second.  He wouldn't stay there for long, however, because, after a B.J. Upton strikeout, Evan Longoria hit a towering homer off the very top of Tha Monsta to give the Rays an early 2-0 lead.

Unfortunately, James Shields was human tonight, as he gave those runs right back in the bottom of the first.  Jacoby Ellsbury doubled to left and quickly scored on a Dustin Pedroia single down the left field line.  Pedroia would score on a David Ortiz single off the monsta on a juicy 3-0 meatball. 

The Rays made fools of Beckett and his partner Varitek, stealing seven bases on the evening.  Johnny Damon was the big winner with three swipes, Desmond Jennings had 2, and Upton and Casey Kotchman each had one.  Kotchman took the Sawks battery so much by surprise that Varitek didn't even feign a throw.

The real "stick in the eye" came in the bottom of the fourth inning.  With the game tied at three, James Shields surrendered a solo bomb to--Mike Aviles.  Is that right?  Mike Aviles?  That put the score at 4-3 and ended the scoring for the night.

There were some great plays by the Rays tonight, but I'm still a little burned by the loss, so I'll just list them quickly:

  • In the bottom of the second, with runners on first and second with no outs Mike Aviles laid down a sacrifice bunt to move the runners over, but the always-anticipating Evan Longoria fielded the ball on one hop and fired to second to start the 5-6-4 double play.  Always nice to see a BIDP.
  • Another Longo special (also involving Aviles): Aviles led off the bottom of the seventh with a strikeout, but reached as the ball squirted through Jaso's legs.  I'm pretty sure this was on purpose by Aviles, as the scouting report is out on Jaso's gaping five-hole.  Anyway, after a errant pick-off and a ground ball out, Aviles was on third with one out.  Dustin Pedroia hit a 'laser(show) down the third base line, but Longoria dove like the wind (yeah, like the wind), snagged the liner, and tagged the base to double off Aviles in one swell foop.  Watch it here, it's pretty great.
  • Kotchman also made a nice stop on a Carl Crawford grounder and made a good throw home to ice Adrian Gonzalez who was trying to score from second.  Watch here.
  • Joe Maddon got himself ejected in the middle of the sixth inning whilst arguing something along the lines of "balls and strikes."  I know that's verboten, but I'm just going to leave this strikezone plot here and you be the judge:
  • Zoneplot

    via www.brooksbaseball.net

There are many things to talk about, such as Shields' approach to David Ortiz, the strikezone, or the appearence of The Great Pumpkin himself, but I'll leave that to the commenters as I am burned out after that 4ish hour game. 

The Yankees and Angels lost if that makes you feel better.  Tomorrow's game comes at you on the biggest stage there is: FOX Saturday Baseball.  I'm so excited to listen to Tim McCarver talk about how the game is played.  Game's at 4:05 and features Jeff Niemann taking on Jon Lester to see if the Rays can get back to three.  Better luck tomorrow.