I'm not even sure I know how to do this, you guys. I may be exaggerating a bit, but it feels like I haven't recapped a win since spring training. Everyone rejoice. Today the Hatfield Curse was lifted.
This one was a nail biter. Never more than a run apart, both teams managed to pair some good baseball with some excruciatingly poor baseball, as Lakeland's Drew Hutchison dueled it out against a sharp and effective Chris Archer.
The Rays got on the board early. Ben Zobrist knocked a two-bagger to center, and Matt Joyce joined him on base with a walk on a wild pitch that advanced Zo to third. Longoria was up next and hit a grounder to Jose Reyes that looked like a sure double play. Joyce was out at second, but Longo flapped his Ducky wings for a little extra burst to beat out Kawasaki's throw to first. Zobrist would cross the plate to put the Rays up 1-0.
In the 5th, the Rays threatened again. After a Kiermaier ground out, Desmond Jennings singled on a sharp grounder to center. Zobrist would walk his way on next, giving Matt Joyce a chance with two on and one out. Strikingly similar to the play in the first, Joyce poked a grounder to second that looked like it would end the inning. Kawasaki tossed it to Reyes for the out, but Reyes had to deal with a sliding Ben Zobrist while he threw to first. The hustling Joyce looked safe, but was initially called out. The play would be reviewed, and resulted in a ruling in the Rays favor. Joyce safe at first, Jennings to third. It would ultimately prove to be an empty victory though, as Longo struck out swinging to end the inning.
In the bottom of the 6th, Archer K'd Jose Bautista looking on a beautiful slider. It appeared that the slugger thought the ball was low, and he may have had a valid argument. Unfortunately for Jose, it was an argument Bill Welke wasn't interested in hearing. Bautista would be ejected after discussing the call a bit too long, and ignoring what looked like several Welke recommendations to return to the dugout. After yesterday's raging helmet slam and today's ejection, one wouldn't have to cycle very far to conclude that Bautista is a bit... testy.
We had another "overboogie" in the top of the 7th, as Kevin Kiermaier failed to stretch a single into a double. While Erik was likely setting fire to his Kiermaier rookie card collection, many of us didn't take too much issue with this one. It just looked like a perfect throw from Nolan Reimold to nail him. Sometimes you've just got to tip your cap.
In the bottom of the frame, it looked like Bautista's bash brother, Edwin Encarnacion, might be joining him in the showers early as he reacted quite colorfully to a 98 mph Chris Archer called strike three. Welke would exercise a bit of patience this time and let him slide. Later in the inning, noted Rays Killer Dioner Navarro poked a single to center. Colby Rasmus launched a scorcher to right that Kiermaier quickly grabbed on a bounce and threw in to Zobrist. Navarro ended up on third, but Rasmus was held to a single. Juan Francisco's sac fly would score Navi to tie the game 1-1, but that would be the extent of the damage.
Chris Archer pitched beautifully today, ending with a final line of 102 pitches, 7.0IP 6H 1R 1ER 1BB 6SO.
Drew Hutchison was no slouch himself. He pretty well stymied Shelton's Rays over 6.0IP 6H 1R 1ER 2BB 7SO.
Joe Maddon has clearly been reading rayawana's letters, as he used his bullpen exactly the way we've been asking him to today. After Archer's day was done, Joe called upon Jake McGee to lock down the 8th and 9th and Brad Boxberger to finish off a traumatic 10th inning.
The top of the 9th showed a lot of promise, as Myers and Escobar led off with back to back singles. A sac bunt from Casali advanced the runners to bring Brandon Guyer to the plate with men on second and third and just one out. Then Brett Cecil came in. I'm telling you, go find the tape of the Guyer and Jennings at bats. Be angry at them both striking out if you wish, but Cecil was just straight nastiness out there. That curveball to K Jennings was absolute filth. Sometimes you've just got to tip your cap again.
John Gibbons was feeling merciful in the 10th, as he allowed Sergio Santos to take over for Brett Cecil. Santos started out by walking Zobrist, then appeared to get Logan Forsythe to fly out to right. Reimold couldn't exactly take a Sunday stroll to the ball, but it seemed perfectly catchable with a little hustle. Somehow he got there, but completely missed it and the ball bounced into the stands. That put Zo on third and Lo on 2nd with no outs, and the Face of the Franchise at the dish. Longo would not let us down, as he shot a grounder into the gap between third and short to score Zobrist. Forsythe would charge home as well, but Melky's throw was on point and Navarro gave him no chance at touching the plate. Not only did Forsythe have no chance, he also had no real lane to allow him to make an attempt at the plate. This would appear to be a clear violation of Major League Baseball's new rule about plate blocking. Maddon would challenge the play on those grounds, but was ultimately overruled. For the life of me, I can't figure out why MLB would create a rule if they had no plans to enforce it. Anyway. 2-1 Rays. Moving on.
Let's be honest, Boxy has had his battles with the Blue Jays this series. The 10th inning would be no different. Juan Francisco led off and knocked one back towards Boxy, but it was just out of his reach. A charging Forsythe grabbed it but his throw to Loney was way offline, resulting in Francisco standing triumphantly on second base with no outs. Tolleson came in to run for Francisco, and would advance to third on a Munenori Kawasaki bunt that was just a disaster. Boxy bobbled the bunt and launched a terrible bouncing throw wide of first base. 1st and 3rd with no outs for the top of the Blue Jays order. The Rays were in trouble.
Say what you will about Longo's season. He was a hero today more than once. Evan made a terrific hustle play to catch a Jose Reyes foul ball for the important first out. In his post game interview, Evan essentially indicated that he was more than willing to go into or over the fence to get it and he nearly had to. Great play. Boxy continued to dig himself out of trouble, popping Melky Cabrera up to second. Two outs. Breathe.
The two out, two on situation would have brought Jose Bautista to the plate had he not been ejected several innings earlier. Instead he had to sit in the locker room and watch Nolan Reimold bat in his stead. I've personally never been a fan of people named Nolan, and I think Blue Jays fans can unite behind me with that sentiment after this particular Nolan's at bat. Boxy was dialed up at this point, setting Nolan up with some offspeed and some heat before striking him out on a 96mph fastball to lock down the Rays 2-1 victory in the 10th.
Another series win for the Rays as they took two of three from the team in America's hat. Now 64-66, the Rays continue to fight to peek their heads above .500 as they head to Baltimore.
Nice work, Evan. I'll see you all at Ducky's. Put it on the DRaysBay tab.