Wait. Pitcher can't find the zone to start the game? The "game over" posts are showing up in the GDT before the first out? I think I've seen this movie before.
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A Rocky Start
Clearly things did not start out the way Nathan Karns intended: eight straight balls to put Jacoby Ellsbury and Brett Gardner aboard for Alex Rodriguez, then another ball to start A-Rod's at-bat before finally throwing the games first strike. And though he did manage to get Rodriguez to pop out to shallow center after a seven pitch at-bat, things didn't get markedly better thanks to some sloppy fielding behind him. The next batter, Mark Teixeira, laced a hard liner to right. Maybe too hard? Ellsbury froze initially before heading to third, then seemed to slow rounding third. But when Souza's throw went in to second instead of toward home (I swear, sometimes, it is like Wil Myers never left. Why do we keep this guy around?), Ellsbury picked up the pace and scampered home. The relay home was closer than it should have been, which makes Souza's brainfart all the more infuriating. One hitter later, Brian McCann would single, scoring Gardner, and it was 2-0, Evil Empire.
This is why we keep Souza around:
Souza is the 1st #Rays rookie with at least 5 HR & SB in team's first 34 games. WATCH HR #6: http://t.co/Iac9uy33bi pic.twitter.com/NiE5ouRLhD— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) May 13, 2015
The embeddable version is not available yet, but go watch that video. And it was nice to get one of those runs back before the first inning was over. What was even nicer is they would not have to wait long for the rest.
Rays Take the Lead
Logan Forsythe led off the Rays' half of the second with a line drive double to left-center. One fly out by David DeJesus later brought everyone's favorite villain to the plate. Up to this point in his career, Asdrubal Cabrera had 999 hits. After this at-bat, he joined Longo in helping the Rays raise another banner.
It was not an ugly hit either. It was a 1-0 curve that Cabby took the other way into the left-center field alley for a double. And to top it off, he tossed the 1,000 hit ball into the dugout himself. Special moment.
Missed Cabby's 1,000th career hit? WATCH: http://t.co/pKeKe1WMVs pic.twitter.com/3Pgxc6iwvE— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) May 14, 2015
Karns Settles In
Karns started to find his footing in the second and really dialed it in by the third. For the night, he went 5 innings, gave up just the 2 runs on 7 hits, and recorded six strikeouts. Most impressively, after walking the first two hitters, he would not issue another free pass.
Rays Win a Challenge (Sort Of?)
Okay, not really. It was the Yankees that challenged the play. But the Yankees did not win the challenge, so that is like the Rays winning, right? Right??? And it was a huge play in the game. Lemme explain.
Karns was cruising along in the fifth, retiring the first two hitters easily, and on his way to retiring the third, Mark Teixeira, on a routine grounder into the shift to Logan Forsythe. Except Tex forgot he was supposed to be slow and busted it out of the box. And Frosty kind of...I dunno. Spaced out? Lolly gagged? In any case, Tex beat the throw easily. McCann followed by falling behind 0-2, then grounding out weakly to third. Except there was no third baseman, because shifts. First and second, two outs, Carlos Beltran at the plate, who promptly singles to center. With Teixeira being waved home, Kevin Kiermaier uncorks a perfect throw to a perfectly positioned Bobby Wilson, who lays down a perfect tag. The Yankees challenge (and it is a good challenge, there's literally no reason not to at this point) but this call is rightly confirmed.
Sorry that this is the Yankees feed. Anyway, the beautiful thing about the play to me is, not only does Wilson give him a lane in his initial set up, he's still giving him a lane through the entire play. This is how catchers should have to play the game.
Bullpen Shuts The Door
That was it for the action, as the bullpens mostly took it from there. Xavier Cedeno, Brandon Gomes, Kevin Jepsen, and Brad Boxberger combined to work the last 4 innings, giving up 3 hits and no walks while striking out six.
I would be remiss if I did not give a hat tip to the guy who held it all together tonight. That guy was Bobby Wilson. Besides the play at the plate, he coaxed good work out of Karns when you were not sure the command was there. His framing skills were in full bloom, and he made a nifty snag just above the dirt on a Gardner foul tip in the second for the strikeout at a time when it was still uncertain if Karns was going to pull it together. He even showed off his arm picking off Didi Gregorius (though Gregorius did smartly work that into a stolen base, that wasn't Bobby's fault). So, yeah, he was 0-3 with a couple Ks. Yeah, we give certain posters grief for their cheerleading for him. But this was a damn fine defensive game for the big guy. Kudos, Mr. Wilson.