"It was the best of plays, it was the worst of plays. It was the age of Process, it was the age of Results. It was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of despair. We had everything before us, we had nothing before us."
- Brett Phillips, noted poet laureate, baseball enthusiast, owner of a complete Rock Band 3 drum set
The Rays managed to pull out a 7-5 win in perhaps the least favorable matchup of the series, and are somehow in a position to win this series against the Red Sox. But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's take a step back. Way back.
Tonight's recap is gonna look at just a small, small section of the game. Two innings really summed up everything tonight.
The 3rd inning
Coming into the game I was very interested to see how Nathan Karns was going to be able to perform. I was almost willing to give up on him (a la Erasmo) after the first game, given how simply terrible he was in the first inning or so. To his credit he calmed down quickly, but he's still had that bugaboo hanging over his head like some Sword of Damocles. Whereas Chris Archer last year had a problem with the late-game meltdown, Karns' meltdowns can come early, and from out of nowhere.
Today, 'twas the third inning that did him in. Karns had already been flirting dangerously with the edges of the strike zone, and he lost Mookie Betts with one out in the third. Two pitches later, Dustin Pedroia hit a two-run laser to left-center. Karns then walked Hanley Ramirez, setting up a play that had shades of '14.
Mike Napoli hit a ball up the middle with Ramirez in motion. With the shift on, it would've easily ended up in the glove of Logan Forsythe, but Karns deflected it and sent it into center field. Ramirez, running through a stop sign, decided to round third and head for home. Kiermaier was chugging along in center, and actually threw the ball towards home before Hanley even reached third base.
If KK's throw was anything approaching accurate, Ramirez would've been embarrassingly out. Instead, the throw was embarrassingly off-line, a throw up the third base line that Rene Rivera had no hopes of corralling.
More or less a garbage play all around. A garbage inning, too. But let's take a look at something significantly better.
The 6th inning
The Rays actually took the lead in the 7th inning, but that's absolutely not the most important inning they had this game. That honor goes to Inning #6, which flipped the script, and turned this game from the story of a team struggling to avoid drowning, to a team looking and fighting for the win. We actually managed to see 3 (!) hits with RISP in a single inning alone! The Rays had been 1-for-19 with RISP for the entire homestand before that inning. Plus, they didn't get a hit w/ RISP in Toronto until the last game of that four-game series.
But all you need is one, and the Rays got 3.
Joe Kelly seemed to lose his pinpoint control, and allowed three straight singles to Cabrera, Longoria, and Jennings. None of these were hit particularly hard, which is why Cabrera couldn't score from second base. But hey, we've all seen this last year, right? Bases loaded, no outs, no runs scored?
Not tonight, thank Gaia. Allan Dykstra actually got a hit, and brought the Rays to within 3 runs. Then:
Logan Forsythe continues his reign as the Bases Loaded Walk Champion with yet another one. Brandon Guyer, now facing Craig Breslow, worked an 0-2 count and dropped a single into center. None of these hits were particularly flashy or hard-hit, but with no outs they all found holes and they all got the job done. Two runs scored, and for an inning it seemed like the Rays could do no wrong.
Other stuff happened too, obviously, but none of it trumped the importance of these two innings. They were the Cliff's Notes of tonight's game: all you needed to know and nothing more. I know it's April, and I know if it was a loss I'd be saying that it's meaningless, it's just one game. . .but games like these just feel like something special. That's all any good recap of sports analysis piece is really: a sort of post mortem that tries to make sense from the senseless. You can stick a narrative onto anything you want. But this game. . .this game. . .
It feels like a #TurningPoint.
OK, fine, more:
- Souza left in the 6th inning with a forearm cramp. He mashes, but he looks like he's made of putty. Or a sort of soft cheese. Or he's a big baby.
- Karns gave up a home run to Big Papi and the noise of the crowd cheering made me physically ill.
- I'm not really prone to giving out complements to opposing players, but Mookie Betts is a heckuva ball player. That slap single to center with the infield in (on a pitch that was way low-and-away) was a thing of beauty.
- Of course, then he gets himself thrown out trying to steal second base on a ball in the air, so hey, maybe not so much.
- The Rays managed to lose 2 challenges in one play in the 8th inning. Has that ever happened before? Probably not. They've yet to win a challenge this year.
- Last but not least: JAKE ELMORE
Roll Call Info
#TheOneTrueKing, Brett Phillips, Brian Andersbot, CSG BBR, ChiBurbRaysFan, DFAHowell, Danny Russell, Darby Robinson, Drew Laing, Ian Malinowski, JRTW612, MakeitRayn, Mr.Jenkins, Noles95', Rays1118, RazeTheRoof, ReyL, Schmidt, Splittin'Ducky'sCobb, The extra 6.9%, Tuffy11111, dacnole, dirtyarcade, downtownres, essenpee, kfharlock, lizzieray, magicrays, nomo.red.evil, raysfan81, rockyboy1, tampa_edski, the dobber, thedudeofdudes, toofamiliar17, witty