This afternoon’s long-anticipated Kumquat Matchup of the Citrus Series pitted (do kumquats have pits? No? Dammit, my metaphor has already gone sour.) Chris Archer against Jarred "The Greek" Cosart. Archer was looking to bounce back from losing the season opener, while Cosart was looking to bounce back from a blister and a gambling investigation. Who would prevail? Let’s find out.
Act One: There Were Outs
Both Archer and Cosart took turns mowing down the opposing lineup the first time through. Other than a drive to deep center by Evan Longoria that was snared by Marcell Ozuna in the top of the second, and a sinking liner by Martin Prado that was grabbed by Steven Souza in the bottom of the second, nothing was hit particularly hard. But while both pitchers put up similar lines, Archer clearly had the better stuff going on. Cosart leaned heavily on his cutter away from righties, while Archer had a full arsenal working. And it was all nasty.
Act Two: Rising Action & Breaking Through
Things started to get interesting the fourth, when Kevin Kiermaier led off by lacing an 0-1 double down the right field line. Souza was next, and even though Cosart had made him look bad the first time through, he continued to stay away, and ended up walking Souza on pitches that weren’t really very close. Unfortunately, Asdrubal Cabrera quickly bailed Cosart out, grounding into a 4-6-3, double play, and Longo ended the threat with a broken bat fly to shallow right.
The Marlins mounted their own threat in the bottom on the frame, when Christian Yelich took an outside 97 mph fastball up the left-field line for a one-out double, pushing Archer to the stretch for the first time in the game. But Archer responded in exceptional fashion, making Giancarlo Stanton look like little Stevie Souza as he flailed at two nasty nasty sliders. After that, there was a minor panic in my living room when Michael Morse’s comebacker glanced off Archer’s glove, but Logan Forsythe bailed us out and everything was fine don’t you feel stupid now.
Cosart did more nibbling in the fifth, mixing in walks of Jennings and Wilson around three groundouts (Dysktra’s gonna get a hit someday, right? Dude got robbed on a hard grounder up the line.) and Archer went back to retiring the side in order, and now it’s the sixth inning, and Kiermaier pops to short, Souza works a decent at bat, and hey, he finally get a decent pitch to hit, so of course he flies out to left, and now there are two outs and you start to wonder if anyone was ever going to score.
Cabrera puts a charge into a 3-1 fastball. Ozuna charges and misplays it badly, not even putting a glove on the ball. It rolls to fence and Cabrera pulls into third with a triple.
Now, there are two outs in an 0-0 ball game. There's a runner on third. Evan Longoria is up. Why would you pitch to him? Anyway, thanks.
In Play: Run(s)!
Desmond Jennings ends the inning with a comebacker. But the Archie is pitching, I am feeling Pur-Tee-Dang-Gooood.
Act Three: A Twist!
Okay, Things got a little scattered here. There were some twists. There was some emotion. I'm better now.
Bottom of the sixth:
With one out, Ichiro pinch hit and somehow drew a four pitch walk, despite the fact that three of the pitches were strikes. Seriously. I can't even. Then Archer threw ball one to Dee Gordon, and I could literally see ONE BAD INNING unfolding before my very eyes. Except it doesn't. Bobby Wilson collected a pitch up in the zone and nailed Ichiro trying to steal by, like, a lot. And then after Gordon battled his way to a full count, he grounded out to second. So . . . yeah. Nothing happened. Huh.
Top of the seventh:
Transcript from my notes:
Bexx PH and working nice AB. But then, he always works nice ABs. Just never gets a payoff at the end. Maybe someday he'll fig -- OH MY GOD BEXX DID YOU SEE THAT BAT FLIP! BUSTER WHO????
So yeah, Tim Beckham hit his first ML homer to make it 2-0, good guys.
Then Frosty almost beat out a marginally routine grounder (Why does Hechevarria get so much praise?) and Wilson and Archer both struck out to end the inning
Bottom of the seventh:
More from the notes: "Damn Chris Archer is good tonight. I hope Cash lets him finish."
Top of the 8th:
More outs. Souza looks really bad at the plate right now.
Bottom of the 8th:
WHY IN GOD'S NAME IS KEVIN JEPSEN PITCHING????
This is the cruelest twist of all. Archer was so good tonight. Fire up the effigies, because if this goes south, we may need them later.
Thankfully, the umpire was kind during the Prado at bat and he gave the rays a check swing strikeout. But then Ozuna singled, making it clear that the baseball gods are not happy with Kevin Cash messing with a starting pitcher on a roll. Jepsen buckled down and K'd Saltalamacchia. But then a 2-0 wild pitch moved Ozuna into scoring position. The living room held its breath. After Hechevarria was late on 3-1 fastball in the zone, Jepsen coaxed a popout to first on the next pitch. Threat over.
There was weird action in the top of the ninth. Two quick outs by Longo and DJ were followed by a Beckham single and steal of second. Prado then made a diving stop of Frosty's grounder up the line, then faked a throw and almost caught Beckham leaning off the bag (he did in fact push him off the bag, like a school-yard bully, but the umpire was quick to indicate that there was no out).
So then there were runners on first and third with two outs, and Bobby Wilson was due up. So Cash chooses to pinch hit. Which I get. Insurance runs are good. But why would he send Rivera up to hit? Why not send up a guy (like, say, David DeJesus) who can actually hit? I don't get it. Anyway, Rivera broke his bat, and Hechevarria made a nice snag to end the threat.
Brad Boxberger came on to close things out, and made quick work of Dean Solano and Gordon. He may have gotten squeezed a bit with Yelich, who worked a seven pitch walk. Which (of course!) brought the tying run to the plate in the person of Stanton. In case you forgot, that's this guy.
Boxberger starts Stanton off with a changeup for ball one. He follows it up with another change, which Stanton swings through for strike one. The sequence repeats on the third and fourth pitches, and it is 2-2. Rivera takes a trip to the mound, and you wonder if maybe they try to get the big man to chase a slider off the plate. But Rene Rivera knows something you don't.
Rivera gets back behind the plate and sets up. Boxberger wheels are fires, and . . . TWIST . . . it's a 93 mph fastball that completely locks up Stanton. Strike three looking, Game over. Rays win!
- The guy who caught Beckham's homerun ball was at his first ever major league game. Nice to see him do the stand up thing and give up the ball without getting all whiny.
- Learned something new: the clock thingie goes out the window when the pitcher or the catcher make the last out.
- Seriously. Dat Bat Flip.
- Go Rays.