Coming into tonight, Jonny Gomes was still quite the popular guy in Tampa Bay. He was a fan favorite during his time with the Rays, and apparently many of the Rays consider Gomes one of the best teammates they've ever had. His Gomesrage made an appearance in our Game Day Thread, and the famous picture of Gomes beating up Coco Crisp will have a prominent place in Sunday's Times.
Well...truth be told, Gomes is still likely a well loved guy around town, even though he did just hit the game-winning home run that catapulted the Oakland A's over the Tampa Bay Rays in the 12th inning. That's partly because Gomes is just so gosh-darn lovable, but also because the Rays had plenty of chances to win and could never quite get it done.
All in all, it was frustrating watching the Rays tonight. Jeremy Hellickson started off the game by throwing the shortest outing of his career, lasting a mere 3.2 innings while throwing 102 pitches. He was working deep into every count, falling behind batters, and nibbling just a biiit too much. It wasn't necessarily that his control was "off" or that his pitches weren't working; he just couldn't figure out how to finish batters in a timely manner.
Hellickson didn't get any help from the Rays defense. Their defense made a number of lapses that extended innings, including two missed infield/foul pop-ups (Rhymes, Giminez), a missed grounder by Zobrist, and a poor throw by Rhymes. They weren't nearly as efficient as normal, and neither was the offense. The Rays had solo home runs from Elliot Johnson, Ben Zobrist, and Carlos Pena to keep them in the game, but they got runners in scoring position multiple times in the late innings and could never bring someone home.
But so it goes. When you've won six in a row and have the best record in baseball, eventually you're going to have a stinker. It's just too bad it was the same day as the BPro event at the Trop... #jynx
Bullets after the jump.
- During the third inning, B.A. and Staats interviewed David Price, and he dropped an interesting comment in there among the standard say-nothing-noteworthy media doubletalk. When talking about his win total last season, Price mentioned that he thought he was a better pitcher last season than he had been the year before. In his words, he improved upon "the things I can control" like his strike outs, walks, and innings pitched. Of course, he then had to go and ruin my FIP-fest by mentioning that his favorite stat is WHIP, but hey, it's something. The Rays certainly have Price thinking with the right mindset and worrying only about the things he can control.
- Random fact: the Rays have the second-slowest pitching staff in baseball when it comes to the time taken between pitches. Considering the game tonight lasted 4 hours and 15 minutes, this somehow seems relevant.
- Jonny Gomes may have won the game for the Athletics, but for a while there, I was certain that Brandon Gomes was going to lose it for the Rays. Gomes came in to start the 10th inning, and he proceeded to load the bases on a walk, a hit batter, and a walk. His velocity was down and he was coming off another stinker of an outing from just the other day, but Maddon decided to stick with him and hope he worked through his issues. To Gomes's credit, he did just that; he struck out the next batter and got a weak ground ball to end the inning.
After the game, it was announced that Brandon Gomes was optioned to Triple-A. The move isn't terribly surprising; Gomes was getting infrequent work in the majors, and his velocity still isn't back up to where it sat before his off-season back surgery. He's struggled recently, so the best course of actions seems to be to allow him to recover more down in the minors. The Rays will call up someone tomorrow in order to give them a 'pen fresh arm. Lueke and De La Rosa seem like obvious options...but the Rays did just move Alex Torres to the bullpen down in Durham. Howell and McGee have been worked hard recently, so maybe we see the lefty Torres get a cup of coffee?
- Zobrist has been in a slump so far this season, but his home run today was an absolute monster. He knocked the ball out to center field, only the second home run hit to center in the Trop so far this season. Not only that, but it appears that the Rays are convinced that something has changed that is making it more difficult for fly balls to travel out to center in the Trop. If that's the case, then kudos to Zobrist for really giving it a ride.
- Can I go on record saying that I wasn't a fan with how the bottom of the 11th went down? The Rays were given an absolute gift, as Sean Rodriguez hit a pop up that managed to fall in juuust out of reach of the first baseman, second baseman, and right fielder. He was on second with no outs, so Chris Giminez bunted him over to third. Okay, no problems so far; Giminez doesn't have a strong bat, and now a fly ball will win the game as well.
So then Maddon had the choice: Elliot Johnson or Brandon Allen against the lefty Brian Fuentes? I think he made the right move sticking with Johnson, but then he had him attempt a suicide squeeze in a two-strike count. I'm really torn on this decision; I'm viscerally opposed to the two-strike bunt, although the more I think about it, I could understand that it might be a higher percentage play. I'd love for someone to seriously crunch the numbers on this, though, because it's frustrating as anything to watch fail.
- I know it's early in the season and all, but I've really liked B.J. Upton's at bats so far. He's striking out less often, and he seems to be having more success against the pitches that have given him trouble in the past (sliders, hard fastballs).
In the bottom of the ninth, he came up with the winning run on third and two outs, and he promptly fell behind 0-2 on two quick sliders. I threw up my hands and figured this would end as it always does, but then Upton did something different: he took the next slider and launched it out to right field. Josh Reddick made a running catch on the warning track to end the inning, but I was really encouraged by that.