After suffering the wrath of Miguel Cabrera and losing Evan Longoria to an aggravated plantar fasciitis in yesterday's close game (a loss), the Rays had the pleasure of facing Justin Verlander.
Nearing his 120th pitch, Verlander was still throwing in the eighth inning and touching 98 MPH -- ostensibly, just because he felt like it. That didn't stop Luke Scott from being the second left handed hitter to bat a home run off him this year... but still unfair.
Yes, Scott was the tying run this evening. With the Rays trailing after a 3-spot in the third inning allowed by Chris Archer, the good guys responded: slowly.
Zobrist had an RBI single to plate Desmond Jennings in the third, Loney plated Matt Joyce after he reached base on an error at first base, and Scott hit his solo shot in the eighth. These two teams combined for 20 hits and 8 walks, but only scored 7 runs in total.
Maddon showed faith in his team this evening by calling on Alex Torres and Joel Peralta, in spite of the Rays' losing score through much of the game, and then turned to the closer to keep the score even at the close.
Fernando Rodney was called upon for the 8-9-1 hitters in the Tigers line up.
With the game now tied at 3-3, the bad guys responded by lifting the exhausted Verlander for: Smyly.
Pinch hitters Ryan Roberts (called up temporarily for the bench while Longo is out) and Sean Rodriguez, and then Desmond Jennings each struck out swinging. 1-2-3. Smyly was pitching slyly, and to be honest, I thought we were doomed.
Fernando Rodney returned, after throwing only 17 pitches, and the call was the far more difficult 3-4-5 hitters Cabrera, Fielder, and Victor Martinez. The Rays closer looked absolutely masterful facing Cabrera, throwing high heat, brushing him back at the plate, and the K'ing Cabrera on a change. Cabrera was angry the whole way back to the dugout, sending angry eyes to the mound.
After yesterday's Detroit victory, Miguel Cabrera turned around and shot an arrow into the roof. Fernando -- his former teammate -- said he was okay with it, called him his buddy. When they met in the tenth? Rodney was touching 100 MPH before he struck him out swinging.
Rodney jammed Fielder on a 100 MPH fastball inside after pitching far and away to a 2-2 count, and Fielder couldn't turn on it. The ball bounced to first for the second out, and after a quick single allowed to V-Mart, Rodney got Johnny Peralta to ground out to third, where Ryan Roberts double clutched and got the force at second.
Jim Leyland had Smyly dealing in the ninth, and I surely thought we'd see more of that dominance in the tenth like the Rays had done with Rodney; luckily, this is Jim Leyland we're talking about. Yes, the Tigers brought in rookie presumable-closer Bruce Rondon in to face Zobrist, Loney, and Myers. He's popular cause he throws really hard, but that doesn't mean well.
Zobrist went after the first pitch (100 MPH) for a fly out, Loney whiffed and then grounded up the middle (100 MPH, 100 MPH), and with Myers coming to the plate, Maddon lifted Loney for the pinch runner Sam Fuld. Myers faced 97-98 MPH heat, and singled sharply to center field.
Here's the trick: Rondon was throwing hard, but it didn't have much movement, and the batters knew it.
This all brought Luke Scott back to the plate, with two on and one out. The Wolverine wanted his first walk off hit for the Rays badly, and battled well against the high heat. On a full count, Scott fouled off the sixth pitch at 100 MPH and was a bit shaken from the feel. He flexed his fingers and stepped back up, but struck out on the off speed stuff (92 MPH).
Here Yunel Escobar got his chance. Rondon began slipping and pitched into the dirt, advancing the runners to second and third. The next pitch was a ball far inside to Yunel, as was the third. Both pitches were 100 MPH, and having seen it happen once, Escobar whacked the second try. The ball carried over Austin Jackson's head in center field (power!), tipped off his glove, and the Rays dogpiled on Escobar at first base.
Rays win in walk off fashion!
- The Tigers scored early on a lead off homerun in the third, followed by two singles by Cabrera and V-Mart -- who moved into scoring position on a passed ball by Molina -- that would score as Detroit batted around. Molina has done a lot of great things this season, framing and base running wise, but he's drawn ire for his ability to block pitches in the dirt. Tonight was another example of that being a problem.
- Zobrist had three(!) hits tonight against Verlander. After the game, Zorilla thanked handling the fastball visually, getting opportunities in the zone, and swinging really hard.