There are some nights where this Rays team plays like you always expected them to, and for seven innings this evening, Tampa Bay was everything you could want and more.
The loudest example was Yunel Escobar, who found his power stroke with two home runs on the evening, accounting for all the Rays batted in tonight. He reached base in every at bat, partnering his two long balls with a walk and a single, but his home runs were worth the admiration.
Two years ago Escobar had developed some power, but last year he adjusted to hitting more up the middle than to the corners. He can hit them deep, and tonight Escobar proved that with arcs landing past the fence to left, and then deeper to left-center. His defense was on point too.
But no where near as on point as the masterful Alex Cobb.
Cobb went 7.1 hit-less in New York this evening before allowing a double on his 101st pitch, left fielder Chris Young playing the villain. Even if Cobb's command had been slipping a tad late in the game, it was the pitch he wanted, where he wanted.
He shook off a call for the curve and then the change from catcher Curt Casali, settling on a fastball away that the eighth-hitter in the line up, and the ball landed softly right before the warning track, with Wil Myers ranging back but not quite getting there. You tell me if he should have gotten there.
Joe Maddon lifted Cobb immediately, and the newly crowned Ace of the staff was furious, but he hesitantly gave out hugs to the rest of the starting rotation, who were of course waiting for him at the steps, and were of course into the game from the sidelines, watching every pitch.
It's been a rough season to follow, but you keep coming back for the players, not just the game -- and the camaraderie of the Rays pitching staff continues to be one of the most admirable aspects of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Great work by Alex Cobb to control this game to the end of his leash, only four strikeouts be damned.
Brad Boxberger replaced Cobb with a pinch hit homerun allowed to Martin Prado, cutting the lead in half. Boxy worked an out from Jacoby Ellsbury, then nailed Derek Jeter on the elbow -- for real, no really. He threw his bat, spun in a circle, doubled over, the trainers came out and everything.
Honestly, this is the last thing you want to do. My biggest disappointment about this being Derek Jeter's last season is that the Yanks might actually pick up an effective short stop and start batting someone useful second in the lineup. Don't let them start any earlier than they have to. The Yankees are already wearing "No. 2" patches, as if Jeter had already died. Let's not help that along.
The bad luck vibes continued when a grounder popped off James Loney's glove to let Brian McCann aboard. No matter, Boxy got Mark Teixeira with a swinging strikeout on three pitches, but some uncharacteristic damage was done.
Now I can't make jokes anymore.
Elsewhere in Milwaukee, Giancarlo Stanton took a fastball to the face, and his dad came out to be with trainers and staff while an ambulance was called. The following batter was hit by the same reliever and the benches cleared aggressively.
Back in New York, McGee nailed Chase Headley in the jaw less than five minutes later with a 96 MPH fastball, legs waving as Headley held on to his chin. No ambulance was needed for him, but the moment was no less scary.
McGee had his own trouble settling in afterward, and Ichiro Suzuki sliced a 96 mph fastball low in the zone into left field, with the runners advancing to second and third and none out.
From there McGee amp'd it up to 98, fireballing an elevated fastball for a swinging K of pinch hittiing Zealous Wheeler, but Chris Young continued to play spoiler for the Rays. Two fastballs up, and he rocked the second to left field.
Even the best pitcher and two best relievers on staff couldn't hold the Yanees at bay, in New York, on this hallowed anniversary of September 11th -- and the answer was .214 batting Chris Young.
What more did you expect?