Maybe was it seeing Scott Kazmir on the hill, in the Trop, as a member of the opposition. Maybe it was being thrown out by Sam Fuld. Maybe it was Vogt envy. Maybe it was the way David Rackley seemed to consult a Magic 8 Ball before making a ball/strike call. All I can tell you is tonight's matchup with the Oakland Athletics was weird, man. Disjointed. Like uncanny valley strange. It's okay though; the good guys won. But I think The Trop might be haunted. That's all I'm saying. Anyway, on to the game.
An Inauspicious Start
Chris Archer seemed in control right from the get go, so it was odd watching the A's get after him so quickly in the first: Eric Sogard on a one-out squirt to center, and the great Billy Butler on an 0-2, two-out liner to center. Then a block by Rene Rivera that was reminiscent of Jose Molina moved both runners 90 feet forward, and Archer fell behind 3-0 to Stephen Vogt, and what the hell is going on? Thankfully, Archer does not believe in ghosts. Two fastballs and a nasty 90 mph slider later, and he was out of the jam. Still, 23 pitches? Let's not make a habit of this, Chris.
In the end, this at-bat was inconsequential. But I got such a kick out of the Scott Kazmir/Evan Longoria matchup in the first. Kaz worked ahead quickly 0-2, then missed with a breaking ball. Evan fouled off a fastball. Kaz missed with a fastball. Evan fouled off a pitch. Evan fouled off another pitch. Kaz missed the zone to run the count full, before finally missing with ball four. Such a classic Kaz thing to do. Good times.
The Inning We Threw The Game Away
If we hadn't gone on to win the game, this was the inning we would all be moaning about.
"Oh, the missed opportunities!"
Rene Rivera got the ball rolling (stopped the ball from rolling?) when he led off the third by ripping a double down the left line and into the corner. Except no he didn't, because Sam Fuld cut the ball off and fired it back in to Sogard, who had time to smoke a cigarette (clove, I imagine) while waiting for Rene to get to second so he could apply the tag. Brandon Guyer of course followed with a hard single to center, and you were cursing Rene even more, but you actually started to feel better about things when Souza took strike three right down the middle.
Or not, because the Magic 8 Ball says "all signs point to ball four."
So now there are two men on base. But it should be bases loaded! Thanks Rene! But then a fastball doinks off Vogt's head (not really, but it sure looked like it live), and both Guyer & Souza move up. So maybe things will work out after all. And then Evan taps one to Lawrie, who nails Guyer (who was running on contact) at the plate, and you sigh. But at least we still have runners at the corners. Except we don't, because Souza is an idiot who never moved off second on Longo's groundout.
What is the matter with you people???
So then of course there's a double steal and everybody is where they're supposed to be, and Logan Forsythe walks, and it's all going to work out, Joey Butler is going to come through, you can feel it your bones. So of course he strikes out on three pitches in one of the ugliest at-bats he's put together during his brief time in the majors.
We Need A Shutdown Inning
Everyone knows that after an inning like that, a pitcher needs to step up with a shutdown inning. That's the cliche, right? What you should definitely not do is groove a 2-0 fastball to Stephen Vogt, right? Good, I'm glad we're all agreed now. Let's not do that again. A's up, 1-0.
Am I Being Too Tough on Archer?
Chris Archer did not pitch a bad game. He walked too many batters (four). He didn't go deep enough—not getting through six innings—which made it especially tough considering the pen was stretched a little thin. But five and a third, six hits, one run, eight strikeouts? You'll take most nights, right? Right. Good job?
Wherein We Score Runs
Brandon Guyer led off the fifth by ripping a single through the hole, and Souza followed with a push bunt where the intent was more hit than sacrifice. Though it was likely to be a close play, Kaz made a nice pick up and shoveled a toss to a moving Max Muncy in time to get Souza, However, Muncy botched the catch, and Souza reached safely, with Guyer going all the way to third. Then this happened.
Longo longball. Say that three times fast. #RaysUp #VoteLongo pic.twitter.com/U73atNYMAv— Tampa Bay Rays (@RaysBaseball) May 23, 2015
Editor's note: Longo-lungball-Longle-longle-long-bulungle.
Three run jack. Evan Longoria turning on a fastball is a beautiful thing. I had forgotten how much I enjoyed it. Do more of that, Evan.
Souza Bomb, and Sac Fly Guess So
The Rays notched another run in the seventh inning when Steven Souza lined a homer to left. Honestly, if anybody else hits that line drive, I don't think it even makes the warning track. It just refused to come down. Dude just hits the ball so hard. And it came after some of the ugliest hacks you can imagine. Somebody in the GDT compared Souza to Adam Dunn. Seems like an apt comparison to me.
They had a chance to score another run later in the inning when Longo tagged from third on a medium fly to left by James Loney, but for some reason Evan spent half the trip home looking over his shoulder. He was thrown out, and rightly so. To quote that great Japanese baseball mind, Sadaharu Miyagi, either "sac fly do 'yes,' or sac fly do 'no.' You sac fly do 'guess so,' [squishing sound] just like grape."
Speaking of Squishing Sounds
That is the sound of Arnold Leon's hopes and dreams getting steamrolled.
Welcomed to The Show, young man. 5-1, Rays.
The Pen Closes the Deal
I don't want to belabor the rest of this. The pen was adequate with mostly the B-squad going. Gomes, Cedeno, Jepsen and Fieri combined to work three-and-a-third, and the first three of the quartet were effective. Ernesto Fieri, on the other hand—well, let me put it this way: can anyone tell me how Grant Balfour looks in Durham? Because I'm thinking we cut the wrong guy. Fieri was ineffective enough that Cash ended up using Boxberger for the final out. But boy did he make quick work of it, retiring Vogt on three pitches to record the save. And McGee and Geltz got the night off, so that's something.
- Am I the only one who thought the Jacksons interview was #BeyondUncomfortable?
- Billy Burns is wonderful comic relief in centerfield. The Beckham triple was amazing.
- Speaking of T-Bexx, if you haven't heard, he's apparently been optioned for a bullpen arm. Sucks for him, especially after a great night like tonight, but he makes sense. Deep position, he has options, yada yada. But damn. Don't stay gone long, Timmy.
- Dear Kevin Cash: Please stop bringing in Gomes to pitch to left handed hitters.
- GDT Comment of the night (judge's selection, not by ranking) "That's a really easy way to score. We should do that." ~ Brian Andersbot, after the Stephen Vogt homer. And then we did!
Roll Call Info
#TheOneTrueKing, AndrewTorrez, Brian Andersbot, Brickhaus, BucoffBuddy, CSG BBR, DFAHowell, Danny Russell, Ian Malinowski, Imperialism32, JRTW612, MrWizzle21, Passionate Apathy, Rays Fan in NC, Rays1118, RaysProf, RazeTheRoof, SRQman, all pRays, essenpee, kapaafire, killa3312, lizzieray, magicrays, nomo.red.evil, thedudeofdudes, turntwo21, witty