I'm really sorry we have to do this to you, Chicago. You're a nice enough town with playoff dreams of your own. The AL Central is inoffensive, with you and Detroit just minding your own business, trying to have your own little race since you can't hack it for the wildcard. I like your maverick of a GM, who picks up castoff stars like they're going out of style, and then watches them rekindle a bit of magic. I just read about your manager in The Hall of Nearly Great, and he sounds swell. I've always liked Adam Dunn, and I really, really like Dan Johnson.
Nevertheless, we will go into your house, rip out your heart, and devour it before your weeping, playoff starved eyes, the way that only a toothless, cartilaginous fish that has barely evolved since the dawn of vertebrates can. We will do this because, while the Rays were already a Team of Destiny, as of today, we now control our own destiny.
Oh, one more thing. You thought you could counter the magic by pinch hitting The Great Pumpkin in the bottom of the ninth against Fernando Rodney. Wasn't going to work. Yes, he crushed a line drive that nearly knocked Matt Joyce down in right field as he caught it, but Dan Johnson is a RAY FOR LIFE.
Shields wasn’t good. In fact he was pretty bad. But you don't need to be good when you're a pitcher on a Team of Destiny. He walked four batters, hit two more, and was wild within the zone as well. Shields loaded the bases with no outs in both the fourth and the fifth inning, but only allowed one run out of each jam, thanks to a still robust strikeout rate, a timely double play, and some hard hit balls that just happened to find Rays fielders. After he retired De Aza in the seventh, Shields gave up a hard hit grounder that Longoria batted down but couldn’t come up with (neither could Zobrist off the deflection), and Maddon finally pulled him, bringing on lefty fireman Jake McGee to face Adam Dunn, and turning the game over to the able Tampa Bay bullpen.
Jake Peavy, on the other hand, was good, scattering four hits and one walk over his seven and a third innings. The Rays manufactured a run against him in the fourth, when Ben Zobrist doubled , advanced to third on a Longoria fly ball, and then came home on a Carlos Pena fly. In the fifth, Luke Scott put one on the board the simple way, with a big fly into the left field bleachers (Scott would be close again, hitting one to the warning track in his next at bat). Other than that, Peavy was nails. The Rays finally got him out of the game in the seventh inning when Sam Fuld, pinch hitting for Jose Lobaton, worked a walk after falling behind 0-2. Robin Ventura decided to pull him for Brett Myers, and while Peavy was not happy to be pulled, Myers worked the rest of the inning without incident.
In the top of the ninth, Evan Longoria reached to grab a Brett Myers slider on the bottom outside of the plate, and yanked it out to the left field bleachers. This is not news, but Longoria’s bat really is special from a pure hitting and power standpoint. No, he doesn’t have the best batting eye in the world, but to beat him, you need to fool him. If he’s not fooled, then he can crush any pitch, even if it’s something a lesser and more prudent batter would spit on. Seeing this game winning at bat reminded me of an old but very attractively graphed article by Jason Hanselman that looked at when Longoria chases pitches. Take a look at the graphs, but for me, this was one of the money lines.
He's still showing that he'll go after that pitch off the outside of the plate though when he makes up his mind to go out there he doesn't miss.
You hear that, Chicago? HE DOESN'T MISS!
- In the Rays half of the seventh inning, there was a long delay in the first at bat when home plate umpire Brian O’Nora needed to fix is contacts. For taunting purposes, umpires must really hate it when something calls attention to the fact that they wear glasses or contacts.
- With Sam Fuld on first base and Desmond Jennings batting in the bottom of the seventh, A.J. Pierzynski stood up and moved to the side to collect a pitchout from Myers, but Myers threw it right over the plate. Jennings, unaware of the confusion behind him, thought it was a fine pitch to hit, but popped it up foul for the out.
- In the bottom of the eighth inning, the White Socks had a pinch runner, Jordan Danks, on first with Alexei Ramirez batting and one out. Danks got a great jump on a steal of second, but Ramirez swung, flying it out to center field. Danks stepped on second, took one step past the bag, stepped on second again as he turned, but then had another footfall on the third base side as he gathered his momentum to go back to first. He was called out for not retouching second base. Weird call, but I think it was right.