The first pitch to Jacoby Ellsbury was a fastball that snuck to the middle of the plate, luckily for a strike. Alex Cobb shook his head and immediately looked frustrated. It would be demonstrative of what was to come...
The First Inning
After fighting off several change ups, Jacoby Ellsbury singled weakly just right of second base for a lead off single. Shane Victorino ripped a low bouncer under James Loney's glove for runners at the corners, and Dustin Pedroia whacked a curveball through the wickets. Alex Cobb kicked his leg to no avail, then jogged over and watched as two runners scored.
Shaken, Cobb gave a four pitch walk to David Ortiz, then brought Daniel Nava to a full count with weak control before allowing a double on a pitch down the middle. Nava hit the 91 MPH meatball off the top of the left-center field field wall, and a third run scored.
Two men in scoring position, three runs, zero outs, 22 pitches.
Mike Carp fouled his way to a 2-2 count before going opposite field and scoring the runners. Five runs, zero outs, 27 pitches.
Jarred Saltalamachia tucked a slicing curveball - away and off the plate, no less - down the left field line for a double.
Two men in scoring position, five runs, 30 pitches, zero outs.
Will Middlebrooks, in his first appearance off the diabled list, singled a 2-2 change high and inside through the gap on the left side plating one more Sock.
Runners on the corners, six runs, 35 pitches, zero outs.
Thankfully, Stephen Drew, the last Red Sox player remaining in the line up, popped out to short for the first out. As Alex Torres began warming in the Rays bullpen, Escobar was able to field a chopper toward second to turn the double play on the next pitch. It was a tough inning to watch.
Entering this game, Alex Cobb had the third best ERA in the league. Fangraphs had recently proclaimed him the Tampa Bay Rays Staff Ace. He had allowed only seven runs in his previous five starts. What a regression.
As the baseball gods would have it, the Rays were facing John Lackey.
Matt Joyce launch a 1-0 fastball into the right field stands - including a full swing, a loud pop off the bat, pausing to watch the ball soar, gently dropping the bat from his swing-extended stance and jogging off to first.
Zobrist was dropped looking on an aggressive strike outside the plate (image via @jasoncollette) and didn't get his pitch to launch, but Kelly Johnson took Lackey for a ride to center field. It fell for a fly out, but Evan Longoria got the message. He put another Lackey mistake into center, but this time past the outfield wall. 6-2 Boston.
Loney followed with his own fly out to center, but the Rays had clearly dropped the gauntlet.
With one out in the second, Jennings made solid contact on a Lackey mistake up the middle, and stole second shortly thereafter with a great jump. Lobaton burned through seven pitches before moving Jennings to third on a high chopper to Lackey, and Escobar burned through six of his own before finding a walk and bringing Joyce back to the plate.
He got a pitch he wanted on a 3-0 count and launched what would have been a towering home run, but it was foul. A ground out ended the threat.
Two inning pitch count update:
Cobb: 57-35 pitch-strike
Lackey: 40-25 pitch-strike
What's more? Lackey didn't seem too pleased with the Rays.
Lackey jawing with Rays' dugout after last out. Didn't look good natured— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) June 11, 2013
Lackey and Saltalamacchia met at the mound and supposedly changed signs after Jennings made his way to second on his steal. Perhaps the events are connected.
Cobb settled in for an easy 1-2-3 inning in the top of the third, requiring 16 pitches. He settled in nicely after a horrific first inning, leaning hard on his split-change that saw the bottom fall out or fool batters head on for four K's. Cobb lasted four innings.
Meanwhile, the Rays offense was as potent as ever, given the last five weeks or so. In the third, a broken bat single would load the bases, following Zobrist and KJ hits. James Loney lined to first, Luke Scott hit into a fielder's choice at second that plated one run, and then Jennings went down swinging mildly.
In the fourth things got exciting again, with Lobaton and Escobar continuing the trend of lead off back-to-back singles. After a Joyce foul out to Middlebrooks, Zobrist plated a hustling Lobaton to bring the Rays within two! Kelly Johnson and Evan Longoria went deep toward the warning track, but neither fell for a hit.
The Rays were sneaking back, leaving two stranded in the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th.
We are approaching the fifth inning, Boston leading 6-4 after two hours.
Alex Torres, y'all
What can you say about Torres at this point? After adjusting to the major league bullpen from the minor league rotation, Torres is not flexing fastball, change up, and slider with incredible effectiveness. He's become exactly who you hoped for years ago, and against the odds.
Today, he entered for Cobb and crushed Red Sox dreams. David Ortiz? Struck out looking. Daniel Nava? Struck out looking. And after a Mike Carp single to right, Saltalamacchia went down looking-looking-swinging.
On his sixth inning appearance, Alex fell right from the mound on his normal pitching motion, then turned and tracked down a one hopper on the first base side to get the out at first. It was impressive awareness and physicality, albeit awkward.
Working the change up to Stephen Drew, a lefty-on-lefty match-up (read: ballsy), he took down the short stop on change-fastball-slider swinging. In five batters, he's matched Cobb's four inning total. Against Ellsbury, also batting from the left side of the plate, Torres went change-fastball-slider again, but pitch three was fouled away. He eventually earned a two out single, the pitcher's second two-out hit allowed, before Torres ended the inning on a can of corn to Johnson in left.
To lead the sixth, Lobaton drilled John Lackey in the foot with a hard liner as he was placing his weight on it from his throwing motion. He lost his balance and fell on the mound, but Lackey would simply ask for a new ball. Everything would have been fine, but Lackey nailed Joyce on two outs, quite deliberately. (Why wait til Joyce?)
The benches cleared as Joyce started toward first base, pointed at Lackey and said, "That's bulls**t." Lackey was running his mouth the whole way as the teammates stormed the field, but quick action by Zobrist to get in the middle of the scuffle from the on deck circle.
After warnings to the benches, Zobrist rifled a shot to the right field corner. As hard as Matt Joyce was sprinting from first he might have scored, but third base coach Tom Foley was careful to hold him at third -- holding up the stop sign as he rounded second. Joyce, angry at his denial of driving into home plate (certainly regardless of whether he would be out) stood on third and muttered.
Here Lackey was lifted -- the consequence of putting two men in scoring position -- and Craig Breslow stopped the bleeding. Kelly Johnson struck out looking on a slider high and down the middle. Again, two stranded, and the score remains 6-4.
To defend the seventh, the Rays called on Joel Peralta -- who promptly threw a breaking ball at Dustin Pedroia's head. It was a slow pitch, a warning sign, but also a curveball with no "intent" behind it -- and it unfortunately led to a walk of the little man.
As if by design, David Ortiz then batted to Longoria (playing from the short stop position in the shift) to turn the double play on his own. He corssed across second to nab the grounder, came back for the out, then threw cleanly to first. It was impressive agility and changes of direction to make a difficult defensive play. Daniel Nava was a quick pop out to finish the top frame, and Peralta returned to the dugout with eyes bulging.
In between innings, Kyle Farnsworth made his way to the dugout; presumably to be closer to the action.
Andrew Miller was called in to face some tough hitting in Longoria, Loney and Scott. After Longo flew out to deep center, Loney hit a towering blast to the right field seats, bringing the Rays within one. The Boar Hunter muscled a flyball to the right field wall, but his fell short a step from the warning track as Victorino nearly collided for the second out. To make himself feel better, he derided a woman in the stands.
Here the Sox lifted Miller for Junichi Tazawa, who got Desmond Jennings on a foul out. Rays inch closer, 6-5.
Jake McGee got his turn in the eighth, facing the bottom third of the Boston line up. It was his first appearance since taking a liner off the shin in the Detroit series on Thursday. He got Carp looking on a 97 MPH fastball, outside corner and well in the strike zone, for the first out; Salty went down on a grounder to short, and Middlebrooks swinging high outside on another blistering heater. It took 16 pitches.
Tazawa stayed on in hopes of sitting Lobaton-Escobar-Joyce. After a ground out, E scobar pushed a 2-1 pitch over the plate to the left-center wall on a ground ball single for a standing double. Joyce grounded out to move the runner, and Ben Zobrist worked a patient 2-1 count. Tazawa put the next pitch against the backstop on a wild pitch, and Escobar came home, wisely sliding feet first, four feet under the tag of a scrambling Saltalamacchia.
Tie ballgame, 6-6!
Zobrist followed with a mirror image to his previous at bat, a bouncing double to the right field corner. Kelly Johnson followed with a sky-high pop up above the mound that saw third, short and second converge on the pitcher. Somehow, Pedroia slid feet first and made a Sam Fuld-ian snag.
Buckle your seatbelts: Red Sox (34 runs) and Rays (31) are the majors' two highest-scoring teams in the 9th inning this season.— Dave Haller (@HallerDave) June 11, 2013
Who else could the Rays call on but Fernando Rodney in this epic game? The Red Sox entered the inning with only two hits since the first inning. They sent up Stephen Drew to face the Rays closer, and he sat his ass down with a 99 MPH fastball, swinging.
Jacoby Ellsbury went down looking at an 86 MPH change, and Victorino on a ground out to second base. It was vintage Rodney control, through and through.
Enter Clayton Mortensen to try Evan Longoria. Pitch one sails over a diving Longo's helmet, and he takes pitch two for a strike. Pitch three face-high off Saltalamacchia's mitt, and pitch four a called strike far outside. Sitting on a 2-2 count, Longo gave his best homerun impression, and swang just in front of the pitch.
James Loney took pitch one's slider on the outside corner for a strike, and the ripped a fastball inside to center for a single, with Sean Rodriguez taking his place as a pinch runner, but Luke Scott and Desmond Jennings would both fly out to end the inning.
Free Baseball (The 10th)
Fernando Rodney stayed on with Pedroia-Ortiz-Nava due. A four pitch walk sent Jim Hickey immediately to the hard line for the bullpen, and Jamey Wright grabbed his glove. Vintage Rodney was missing.
An Ortiz fielder's choice moved the runner to second, with Zobrist opting for the easy out at first while throwing off balance. On a full count to Nava, Pedroia stole third on the ball-4 pitch, placing runners on the corners.
After a visit from Hickey with the entire infield, Rodney caught Mike Carp swinging on an 85 change up, before Salty hit an 0-1 fastball (meant to be away, placed down and in) into shallow center field to plate the two runners.
Wright entered to get a strikeout, but the damage was done. Rays trail 8-6.
Andrew Bailey entered to close for Boston, and the Rays had Lobaton-Escobar-Joyce on deck. After taking two strikes in the count, Lobaton reached down and homered to bring the Rays within one (his third on the season). Full extension, head down, textbook swing on a pitch Bailey should have known better that to throw. Lobaton made an identical swing a few pitches earlier, but the pitch had been higher in the zone.
Thanks to a tight strikezone, Escobar took a five pitch walk and bring up Matt Joyce with no outs. After a first pitch ball, Joyce pulled a hard and deep liner foul, bounced off another, took two cutters low for a full count, and didn't even lift the bat off his shoulder for the fourth ball, high outside.
Ben Zobrist entered 4-for-6 with a HR, and he didn't even get a say in his walk up music -- traditionally the latest single by his wife, a part-time pop-music artist -- the Trop blared "Welcome to the Jungle" instead. In turn, Zorilla put a 2-1 four seamer down the middle into right field (for a career high five hits), but it was hit too hard to give the runners time. Escobar was held at third, and rightfully so.
With bases loaded and no outs, Kelly Johnson worked a full count (making great adjustments along the way with three foul balls) and earned the game-tying walk.
Longoria fouled the first pitch (a curve outside), swung and missed on a curve beneath the zone, and then hit into a 5-2-3 double play, clearing the runners at home and first. With two men in scoring position, and two outs against an exhausted Bailey, Sam Fuld laid down a heart stopping bunt.
Pedroia read the shocking play, charged Fuld's bunt in a dead sprint, and got the ball to the first baseman for the final out. If the ball dribbles as it passes the pitcher, Fuld is safe at first, but it was a hard hit bunt and Pedroia caught Fuld by a step.
The Rays score two for a tie game, 8-8, and we're on to the eleventh.
Remember to breathe, deep breaths!— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) June 11, 2013
More Free Baseball (The 11th)
Fuld takes left field, and Kelly Johnson to first base.
Jamey Wright dropped an outside curve to K the short stop Stephen Drew swinging, and the top of the line up returned. He would walk Ellsbury, pop Victorino out to center, and get lifted for Kyle Farnsworth.
Gulp— Heath Baywood (@FreeZorilla) June 11, 2013
Professor Farnsworth, the Enforcer, worked a full count as Ellsbury stole second and third with no contest, and punched out Pedroia, getting him looking far outside. The second baseman had spit flying as he got in the face of umpire Tom Hallion, but it was no matter. The Rays had survived.
In the bottom of the frame, the Sox turned to the impressive Koji Uehara, a relief pitcher who will hammer the top of the strike zone and then make you look silly on the splitter.
Luke Scott fouled and then popped out to short, Desmond Jennings grounded to third on three pitches, and then Lobaton followed Scott's lead. 1-2-3, the Rays went down in order.
Maddon's decision to keep Rodney in for 33 pitches, a career high as a closer, was suspect. It gave Wright the rest needed to pitch the 11th, but using Wright earlier -- say, with runners on the corners against Saltalamacchia -- could have put the fire out sooner.
Fortunately, the Rays also worked Boston closer Andrew Bailey for 31 pitches, and then pulled Koji Uehara out of the pen, who had an off day after throwing 30+ pitches himself yesterday.
Even More Free Baseball (The 12th)
Boston manager John Farrell was fairly upset when Joe Maddon was able to stall by talking with the home plate umpire while Cesar Ramos finished his bullpen warm up on the mound, adding fuel to the fire of this game.* (It was an admittedly short bottom of the 11th, and Maddon is a notorious staller.)
Cesar Ramos threw 3 innings yesterday. We're now playing by College World Series rules.— Jonah Keri (@jonahkeri) June 11, 2013
Ortiz popped out to third on his first pitch, Daniel Nava on the following pitch on a short pop to Lobaton, and Jonny Gomes earned a pinch hit opportunity for Mike Carp. The former Rays cult hero went down looking, and much like Uehara, the should've-been-tired Ramos escaped on seven pitches.
After a quick out by Escobar, Matt Joyce hit another deep fly ball to right-center field, but it fell three steps short of the wall and Ellsbury was able to catch it on the run.
Surely exhausted, Zobrist swang hard on an 89 MPH fastball, and then was fooled by the splitter low. 1-2-3 again.
*It would be revealed later that Ramos was granted extra time for an injury situation, as Farnsworth developed arm soreness in the dugout after his outing.
Yes, Even More Free Baseball (The 13th)
Still fresh, Cesar Ramos returned to start the inning, surrendering a lead off single to Salty before the Rays defense executed a classic 6-4-3 double play. Stephen Drew got his first hit on the evening by sneaking on through the right side, but Ramos got an Ellsbury pop up to left field for the final out on his 21st pitch.
The benefit here is saving Ramos's energy. If the Rays can't win this inning, and if Ramos is done for the night, the next available pitchers are Chris Archer and Roberto Hernandez...
Exhausted of their own options, the Red Sox turned to Wednesday's starter Franklin Morales to hold down the Rays offense. Due up: Kelly Johnson, Evan Longoria, and the better-keep-him-in-to-pitch-the-17th Sam Fuld (amiright?).
I was wrong. Kelly Johnson worked a seven pitch at-bat for a strikeout before Evan Longoria came to the plate, and hit the second pitch directly to Jacoby Ellsbury, and Sam Fuld was then lifted for Ryan Roberts.
Tat Man waited out a six pitch walk (with the fourth pitch possibly a strike, but called in our favor) to bring up Luke Scott. The Wolverine squared up the count at 2-2 thanks to some erratic control after swinging strikes on change ups, then pushing the count to 3-2 on eight pitches before a foul-tip made its way to Saltalamacchia's glove. Hard fought, no cigar.
Please Sir, Can I Have Some More? (The 14th)
Ramos would return, with Victorino leading off with a blooper that tucked just behind a jumping Escobar on a pitch that was certainly hard to hit. Ramos was unshaken, putting Pedroia on the ropes before an 0-2 fly out to deep right field. Victorino went head first, advancing from first base, and slid past the bag and into Escobar's right shin/knee.
With first base now open and one out, the Rays intentionally walked David Ortiz (keeping him hitless on the night). The groundball strategy did not pay off -- Daniel Nava beat a change up low and turned it into another 14th inning blooper into shallow center. Boston scores one, and after a Jonny Gomes fly out, Saltalamacchia made that two on a sinker middle outside. Middlebrooks would be the final out in the frame with a fly out to right.
Boston leads at the turn, 10-8.
Desmond Jennings led with a fly ball that fell for a single in the dead space between center and right. After a Lobaton fly out to deep right, Yunel Escobar hit into a double play and the game ended with disappointment.
I'm acutely reminded of a different epic game that took the wind out of my sails earlier this season. At the time it felt season defining, but in the end, the Rays went on to have the best offense in baseball in the month of May (125 wRC+). On the bright side, the Rays protected their starters from pitching this evening, and had the opportunity to exhaust Boston's bullpen.
Not that ours wasn't taxed, Cesar Ramos and Fernando Rodney will not be available -- and Kyle Farnsworth just might be hurt, but the Rays should benefit from avoiding Uehara, Tazawa, and Bailey.