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Rays vs. Jays recap, game 2: J.A. Happ hit by line drive, game secondary

Still, here's a recap.


At times, it may seem that relinquished seven run leads matter. They don't. It may seem that badly blown calls at home plate matter. They don't, even when they cost your team in a run. It may seem that questionable bullpen management by your bench coach (after your manager has been ejected for arguing a badly blown call at home plate) that results in relinquished leads the day after relinquished seven run leads matter. They don't.

In the bottom of the second inning, with two runners on, Desmond Jennings hit a line drive back at J.A. Happ. Long before he had a chance to react, the ball hit Happ on or near the left ear, sending him to the ground clutching at his head. Happ lay there with blood pouring from his ear while two runs scored and Jennings advanced to third base (the ball had ricocheted far into foul territory) before play was stopped. The training staff rushed to the mound and attended to Happ for a good seven or eight minutes while the players and fans watched in stunned silence, before strapping him securely into a stretcher and taking him direct to the hospital.

To say that I hope Happ is okay is nonsensical. Clearly he is not. I hope he is eventually able to heal fully. In the meantime, there was still a baseball game played. It feels wrong to write a recap, yet that's what I'm going to do. Depriving Tampa Bay of knowledge of the game's details will not ease Happ's pain. Here goes.

The Jays got on the board first when a Roberto Hernandez thigh-high front door sinker leaked back over the plate. Adam Lind connected for a true line drive homer. Other than that one hiccup, Roberto Hernandez was nails. He threw 102 pitches and scattered five hits over six innings while walking one batter and striking out seven. He leaned heavily on his sinker (44 pitches, five whiffs) and his changeup (36 pitches, six whiffs), and both looked sharp.

All of the Rays' runs came in the bottom of the second inning. Sean Rodriguez lead off with a double, and James Loney singled up the middle to put runners at the corners. Jose Molina laid a bunt down the first base line, but it was a bit too hard and Edwin Encarnacion was able to charge and throw home. J.P. Arrencibia received the throw with plenty of time to get down a tag, but he was just a step in front of the bag. Rodriguez pulled off a beautiful slide where he ran on the outside edge of the baseline and dove to evade the tag, reaching back with his left hand to brush the back corner of the plate. Marty Foster said that Rodriguez had never touched the bag. Replays clearly showed that he had. Skid marks in the dirt, which S-Rod pointed to, clearly showed that he had. But Foster thought he had seen him miss, and the eventual result was Maddon being tossed.

Yunel Escobar singled before Jennings hit his line drive at Happ that scored two runs. Ryan Roberts singled in another.

The game was pretty subdued until the seventh inning, when Jake McGee came on to relieve the excellent Hernandez. His first pitch was supposed to be inside, but it ended up on the outside third of the plate. Adam Lind slapped it the other way down the third base line for a double. McGee's second pitch was another fastball that missed Molina's glove by a foot. His third pitch was an 87 mph nothing right down the middle that Colby Rasmus hit for a two run homer, the way any decent major league hitter should. That got Brandon Gomes to start warming up in the bullpen. McGee pulled himself together and got out of the inning, but it was another bad outing for one of the pitchers who is expected to be anchoring the Rays bullpen.

The Rays did not score in the bottom of the seventh, and Dave Martinez sent Kyle Farnsworth out to pitch the eighth. Farnsworth gave up a fairly hard hit double to Melky Cabrera, Jose Molina gave up a passed ball to move Cabrera to third, and Jose Bautista lined a 91 mph fastball on the inside third into the corner to score the run and tie the game. Edwin Encarnacion lined a single just over the glove of a leaping Ryan Roberts to advance the potential go-ahead run to third base. Farnsworth struck out J.P. Arrencibia before ceding to Cesar Ramos, who closed out the inning with a double play.

There are a few problems I have with this inning. 1) Why would you throw your 91 mph fastball on the inside half of the plate to Jose Bautista? A pitch like that does not trouble him. But that's okay. Even good pitchers miss location sometimes. 2) Why was Kyle Farnsworth pitching? When McGee was in trouble, Martinez (correctly in my opinion) got Gomes up in case he needed a pitcher who could get out of a jam. Now generally, you want your good pitchers to pitch with a one run lead in the eighth inning. Also generally, the set of pitchers who can get out of jams, and the set of pitchers who are "good," overlap almost entirely. There is no valid reason for Gomes to be the choice to potentially get out of the seventh inning but not to start the eighth.

But even if you think that Farnsworth is better than Gomes, isn't the eighth inning the domain of the Rays' second best reliever, Joel Peralta? Why not him instead of Farnsy?

In the top of the ninth with the score tied, Peralta did make an appearance (why not Fernando Rodney?). Maicer Izturis connected with a high fastball from for his second home run of the season (number 36 of his career). Yikes. Brett Lawrie got on base with a soft grounder up the middle. Melky Cabrera connected with a splitter at the bottom of the zone for a run-scoring double, and Bautista walked. Only then did Gomes get his chance (and he promptly struck out Edwin Encarnacion to end the inning).

The Rays went quietly in the bottom half of the ninth and the game ended up as another disappointing loss. Still, tomorrow will be another day much like today for everyone except J.A. Happ, so let's just get to tomorrow and wish him the best.

Some other notes:
  • In the first inning, Hernandez got Jose Bautista to swing through an inside sinker. He then threw another sinker also inside, but down. Bautista timed it up perfectly, pulled his hands through, and bounced it off the top of the wall for a double. It was a great demonstration of just how dangerous a hitter Bautista is. The sinker down and in is a really good pitch for Hernandez, but anything that Bautista has the measure of he can hit out of the park. There are no safe places to pitch Bautista, but inside with the same pitch you've just thrown him inside is especially unsafe.
  • In the bottom of the second inning, Ben Zobrist perfectly executed the "Baltimore chop," sending a very high bouncer over the pitcher and beating out the throw from a charging Brett Lawrie.
  • In the third inning, with an 0-1 count, Melky Cabrera tried to check his swing. He could not, and then he dropped his bat and fell backward practically into Molina's lap. Cabrera is a pretty good baseball player, but if this career stops working out for him, he maybe should try a second one in physical comedy. The man has skills.