Dioner Navarro was one of my favorite Rays during the turn around of 2008, and that feeling was extended after the let down that was the incredible 2009 Rays team that couldn't win games by MLB2K10.
Projections of future performance are a fickle thing. In the fantasy world of my XBox, Navarro was a homerun fiend, clubbing them constantly from the three-hole in my batting order, leading the league in RBI every time I played a new season.
In real life he fizzled, bounced around, ended up in Cincinnati where he worked out with the right folks and found his stroke. Now he's in Toronto, fat as ever, clubbing away.
Navarro displayed his video game strength with one on and one out in the second inning, reading a backdoor slider like a book after fouling off several pitched from Chris Archer. That gave the Blue Jays a lead they wouldn't relinquish.
Then the power went out, literally, in one strand of lights that everyone struggled to find. Rookie fireballer Stroman for Toronto spotted the outage, pointed skyward in the third. The umps gathered, Stroman dashed to the dugout, and poor Jose Molina was left confused in the batter's box.
31 minutes later and the lights kinda working again, not that visibility was ever hindered, and Molina was brought back to a 2-2 count and took a fastball possibly above the zone, striking out looking. How infuriating. It was that kind of night.
In a rare occurrence for DRaysBay, in that we had an insider at the game. Hatfield was on the scene for the rain delay, and confirmed not only a lightning strike took out that single row of lights, but that the Trop was leaking rain in the bad thunderstorm. One bad enough to scare the crap out of Melky Cabrera.
The general theme of the night, however, was ineptitude, and not just on the Dome: Jose Molina tossing the ball on a transfer to throw out a runner heading toward second. The chopper bouncing off the tip of James Loney's glove. Kevin Kiermaier's throw bringing James Loney way off the line, and no one covering first base. Wil Myers legging it over to a liner, but it landing just past his route to the ball. And Chris Archer just looked uncomfortable.
My biggest take away on the night however was a different sort of power outage. Not electrical, not mental, but physical. Navarro and Encarnacion homered against a good pitcher tonight, combined with some authoritative hitting from Adam Lind it was a depressing sight.
The Rays are currently on pace to have to worst homerun total in the seventeen year history of the franchise, less than the 111 recorded in 1998. The team has yet to crack three digits worth, an abysmal showing from a flyball heavy squad of hitters, and the star Evan Longoria has yet to reach twenty, in a season he's not injured.
Longoria would eventually put his head down and drive a ball to left, but it dropped in the grass short of the defender, determined but no power. Still, the Rays would score something here. There had been runners on the corners and one would score. Loney followed with a would-be double as the ball was passed around the infield but the Rays were hustling. Joyce scored, then Loney was called out on the relay throw. The Rays challenged, and on review he was safe. It's a shame the Jays had already piled up six runs.
From there, Kirby Yates grinded through bases loaded with a run allowed, that was exciting, but the better parts were the banter from the broadcast booth. Oh, and Evan Longoria hit the most no-doubt home run of the Rays season.
Yup, lightning struck.
Perfect swing, perfect contact, easy motion and easy power, and with one out in the eighth. Watch it soar to the left field wall.
In the midst of all my complaints regarding the Rays and longball hitting, Longoria unleashed. Of course he did.
If and when the embed code is available, I'll be sure to paste it above, but for now CLICK THIS LINK, IT'S YOUR ONLY SOLACE.
Actually, hold off. There needs to be some proper backing to such a triumphant longball. His walkup music? Something from Watch the Throne? Master P's Make 'em say UGH? No, I know just the thing.
Click this, then watch the video again. Perfection.
The longball aside, the question is what we should do with this Rays line up? And I don't mean this season per se, the Rays have a mathematical possibility of post season play, but the hitting has felt weak all season.
Maybe it's my head cold talking, but right now, the only batters in the lineup I feel comfortable with are Zobrist, Joyce, and the platoon hitters S-Rod, DDJ, and Guyer. I don't have a problem with James Loney, he's just being who he should have been last year, but KK is still in a slump, Myers hasn't recovered, Jennings is out of comission, Hanigan hasn't had a chance, and we employ Jose Molina.
I expected more from just about everyone playing offense on the roster, be it performance or health. The team brought the energy back late in the game, but that doesn't excuse what has been bad all season. Or maybe just average, when the standard is greatness.
The 2014 Rays are average in run creation, but 20th in wOBA (.307), 25th in slugging (.369), and 26th in home runs (99). They're better than this.
BONUS: this guy, spotted by the Canadian broadcast.