What a wild and aggravating Friday night for the Tampa Bay Rays. On a bullpen day, facing the interdivisonal rivals, the Rays suffered early, scored late in a walk-centric frame,
The starters were the unlikeliest of interests.Steve Geltz is the first reliever since 1990 to pitch in three of the first four games and was pitching in the first inning for the first time since high school.
Then there was the old man.
There's something frustrating about watching Dan Haren pitch. People complain about the Rays pitching slowly, as in the passage of time and in the use of the change up. Dan Haren worked fast enough, but he only has the change up.
The evening had the makings of making you crazy, and it worked.
The bullpen day experiment began with a lead off single softly up the middle, followed by a steal. Rene Rivera's arm was on point, the throw a tad higher than perfect but Dee Gordon had a great jump.
Geltz cooled his own jets, dialed it down to 91, then nabbed a comebacker. Gordon stayed in the rundown long enough to put the new runner on second, who would move to third on a pitch in the dirt. Michael Morse followed with the RBI single on two outs. The next man went down looking.
In the second frame there was a slight concern Geltz wouldn't finish his share, with a man on in the second with one out and a chopper up the middle, but Logan Forsythe mad e a nice play to glove flip the ball as he ranged in the center field grass. His final out was a grounder from Dan Haren, allowing the Rays to pinch hit in the third.
Sure enough, Mikie Mahtook was the first pinch hitter for the Rays, entering with two outs in the third for his MLB debut. Haren went high and away, and Mahtook did well to put barrel on ball, but Dee Gordon was ranging in Forsythe territory and caught it in the grass.
The Rays broadcast continued with the feel good story of Mahtook's promotion, including an interview with his mother, who was with Mikie for Durham's season opener yesterday. She told the story of Mahtook crying on her shoulder upon sharing the news with his mom and sisters, and they discussed how honored his father would have been.
Mahtook writes his father's old number, 54, on his cleats for every game, and when he took the batter's box to pinch hit, he stepped in for Steve Geltz, who wears the same number for the Rays. It was kismet, to say the least.
Erasmo Ramirez, meanwhile, took the mound for the top of the order for his official Rays debut, and the good feelings were gone. A single to Dee Gordon, a walk and then a HBP, loading the bases on no outs for Mike Morse. That hit-by-pitch to Stanton was particularly troubling too, as it was one of Ramirez's famed change ups.
Ramirez responded well enough, a classic double play after a battling out bat that had Ramirez back in control, but another run was scored by Gordon. 2-1 Fish.
In the top of the fourth, Kevin Kiermaier stepped in for his second look at Dan Haren, and the Outlaw timed his swings well. Solid approach, deep down the right field line, and eventually - GONE.
The swing looked easy, at least in the moment, so there was legitimate surprise in that result. KK had his second of the year, in pitcher's parks no less that particularly punish left handed hitters. And as the broadcast detailed, particularly with the roof closed, as it was this evening.
Ramirez returned in the fourth, as his at bat had not yet come - the Rays offense still otherwise silent. The first at bat was a hot shot deflected off Ramirez, the second a walk of free-swinging Saltalamacchia. Weak hitting short stop Hechevarria reached and hit one in the gap of left field for a double, scoring another.
The game 3-1 Marlins, Dan Haren bunted for the first out of the frame, then man-of-the-match Dee Gordon walked it full. In direct contrast to his Spring Training start at the Trop at the end of the off-season, Ramirez was unable to locate his fastball or change, but the Rays were locked in to waiting on pitching changes until a spot in the batting order arrived.
Ramirez stayed in, and once again in high leverage, the change came back again. Adrenaline is your friend. Unfortunately, Christian Yelich fanned a few, but bided for a pitch to hit, and knocked in two more off a change that didn't bite hard enough. Single up the middle, 5-1 Fish.
Giancarlo Stanton followed with a hot shot just up the left field line to finish the bags, and doubled in two more men. Morse then followed with a child's play single through the right side, 8-1 Fish.
Martin Prado stepped in to the batter's box, and Grant Balfour stepped up in the ‘pen - which tells you what you need to know about Balfour's current standing with the depth chart. Prado was fooled on the change, Ozuna fooled on the fastball arriving early, both what you expected from Ramirez earlier.
You know, before the six runs scored.
The Rays went weakly the next time around, only Dykstra was a threat but hit into the shift thanks to a great diving play by - you guessed it - Dee Gordon.
As the great @PHill_bone would say: #StopIt, @FlashGJr! pic.twitter.com/aQG1J2TTHG— Miami Marlins (@Marlins) April 11, 2015
Ramirez's spot in the order had not come up, but he still would not return.
Baflour started with a 1-0 double to Saltalamacchia - the easiest strikeout in major league baseball - and I threw the remote. Not in frustration, but to quell the temptation to turn off this game.
Balfour figured out the inning, and was pinch hit for with Brandon Guyer in the following inning.
With one out, the reserve outfielder hit a soft liner to bring back Kevin Kiermaier, up to that moment the only bright spot on the night, for a follow up. Back to back hits, near hope.
Haren started looking uncertain at a 2-0 count, and Souza worked his way to a single, but Steven Souza GIDP'd the threat away. He'd looked uncomfortable at the plate all night, and was the man pulled to make way for Matt Andriese.
Another major league debut, Andriese was picking up strikes and got groundballs to start and end the frame, no damage done. Tight slider, nice work overall. Pity that came later, but based on Spring Training performances just a week ago, Ramirez up first was not surprising. Six run fourth be damned.
Asdrubal Cabrera started the seventh with a new pitcher (former Yankee David Phelps) and his second single on the night. The first was a base hit up the right field line that Giancarlo tracked down and nailed the throw to second at the start of the game. Good play there, but back to the seventh.
After Longo gave one a ride to the center field warning track, Desmond Jennings singled to Stanton when the sliding outfielder couldn't glove the ball, and Dykstra walked the next at bat to load the bases on one out to make it feel like the Rays had a chance.
Logan Forsythe laid off five pitches to force a run home, cutting the lead to 8-2, and the Marlins changed pitchers to Sam Dyson with the bags still juiced on one out. Rene Rivera, who had been hitless as a Rays player, succumbed to the new guy's high heat by taking a fastball on the outside corner.
Brandon Guyer took the count full on two outs, and his patience paid off with a fastball that missed badly. 8-3, it was Kiermaier again and Dyson was still pitching in the dirt. On his third try at the zone, KK fouled a pitch to hit, then took two more poor pitches. 8-4.
The Rays were suddenly chipping away, and David DeJesus stepped in for Matt Andriese. That was enough for the Marlins to pull their pitcher, but the replaced a wild righty with a wild righty in a curious switch. The call ratcheted up to 3-1 and DDJ got his own pitch to hit - and this time the Rays player didn't foul it.
It was a rocket shot that hit the top of the wall in right center - inspiring all the hope of a grand slam, but settling for a bases clearing double! OH HOW.
The Rays scoring anything felt absolutely impossible before the seventh inning, but suddenly the game was in reach, and Asdrubal Cabrera quickly followed with a hit up the middle that Dee Gordon couldn't corral on full stretch. He needed to keep it in front of him to hold up DeJesus, but with the ball trickling through DDJ came around and scored! TIE BALLGAME.
Everything you knew about this game was wrong as soon as Dan Haren left the game, and that seems like nonsense but it's entirely true. Rays and Fish, tied 8-8.
Longoria flew out, frames change, and Kirby Yates got the nod. He worked a foul out from Ozuna, then did what no one could before - stuck out Saltalamacchia - before finishing Hechavarria on a strike out. Baseball as it should be.
The Marlins left their pitcher A.J. Ramos on the mound, and he walked Jennings on four pitches. Mixing with pick off moves, Ramos was able to K the first baseman Allan Dykstra on a change after four fastballs.
Logan Forsythe stepped in for two easy-to-read balls before Jennings picked up his first steal on the season following six pick off attempts. Before the next pitch,Ramos tried to spin and pick Jennings at second but rolled his ankle, falling to one knee. Ramos stayed in for Forsythe, and on a full count hit a chopper in a difficult to field spot for the third baseman.
The fielder's choice moved Jennings to third base, and Rivera stepped in to battle. He nearly found his first hit on four foul balls, including two up the left side that bounced to the wrong side of the line, but on the tenth pitch Rene chased a change up diving away from the outside corner for a strikeout to end the threat.
Kirby Yates stuck around for the bottom of the eighth, and Donovan Solano hit a slider up the middle. Cash then made his switch to lefty Jeff Beliveau, over the warming Kevin Jepsen.
Beliveau coaxed a but from Dee Gordon, which Rene Rivera fielded well for the quick throw to second base, but the speedy second baseman was able to swipe the next bag soon thereafter. Yelich struck out, thenthe Rays made two switches, bringing in Ernesto Frieri and his catcher Bobby Wilson for Giancarlo Stanton.
No matter, the star hitter singled for the winning run, then easily took second base on the following pitch. Morse then waited around for the walk before Ichiro pinch hit and grounded out.
Go ahead run scored, the Marlins were in line for the save.
Steve Cishek the side-arm savior, had Brandon Guyer, KK, and Bobby WIlson to reckon with, and things started better than expected.
Guyer lofted a breaking ball up the right field side, and it dropped easily. Thinking two the whole way, Guyer rounded into second base to give the Rays some great standing on the basepaths, eliminating a double play threat.
Sinkers around the zone felled Kiermaier for the first out, bringing up the back up catcher. Wilson took a slider, then ignored one over the plate. He reached for a singer on the outer edge, barely foul, then laid off the outside pitch. Cishek came back over the plate with another sinker, and Bobby Wilson squared it up - sending a looper past the aerial Dee Gordon. It went off the edge of his glove, and Guyer was able to sneak down to third.
Corners - one out. Asdrubal Cabrera up next.
After taking a slider in the zone, Cabrera took two pitches off the plate before Cishek brought an identical slider into the zone that Cabrera took to start. Making contact, it looked like an easy double play ball, but the distraction of having Guyer charging home was just enough to delay the Marlins, and Cabrera crossed first base ahead of the game-ending throw. 9-9 Ballgame.
Longoria popped out once again - not his night - but the game was tied.
Facing possible extra innings, the Rays left Ernesto Frieri in the game for the 6-7-8 hitters. An easy flyball to center, and a towering flyball to right made things easier, then Hechavarria popped foul on a slider low to bring on the tenth.
Desmond Jennings stepped in with the Marlins closer replaced by Bryan Morris, a right handed with multiple two-seam pitches. After a cutter down and away put the count full, he went one a bit closer and fanned for the first out.
Enter Allan Dykstra. He tried bunting against the shift on the first pitch, but it went foul, then fouled another in the traditional sense. Morris then went low and away with a 96-mph sinker that looked rather unhittable, and Dykstra was rung up for the second out.
Logan Forsythe followed with a well earned walk, bring up the pitcher's slot. Remaining in the bullpen was just two more men - Brad Boxberger and Kevin Jepsen, the high leverage guys you'd want, but neither longmen. Frieri could have gone longer, but the Rays sent Tim Beckham to the plate - the final man on the bench.
Coming off the bench and facing mid 90's heat can't be easy, but it's even worse on the broken bat. Beckham turned on the pitch inside, but his bat shattered and the short stop fielded cleanly.
Still tied, the Rays would need to hold the Marlins off at least twice more to win.
Between innings, Todd Kalas directed the audience to the Marlins bobblehead museum, which included a double-bobble of Staats and Magrane - the original Devil Rays broadcaster duo. Brian ANderson said it had shades of teamosil in their smiles.
Brad Boxberger entered for the bottom frame, and after striking out Donovan Solano, allowed a Dee Gordon double on a lofted change that fell just fair up the right side. Gordon made it a double.
Christian Yelich up next saw only fastballs from Boxberger, three low then one high. Kid had done his research, swung over the pitch and put it through the opposite direction, scoring Gordon easily.
I questioned the Gordon acquisition over the off-season, but he's been exactly what the Marlins could hope for in a lead off man, and showed it tonight.
An incredibly frustrating, turned simply incredible game.
It's a shame the Rays couldn't capitalize.
The Marlins now lead the citrus series 48-46 in team history.