The difference between being up 3-2 after eight and being behind was probably about three inches spread out over those eight innings. The difference between hanging on to win and losing 4-3 was maybe three more inches in the ninth. This was an exciting, frustrating, infuriating baseball game, with enough quirks for everyone. It was the essence of why I love baseball, and why I sometimes hate that I love baseball.
Let's get that suspect hit by pitch out of the way. The Rays maybe had a little something going on in the third after Kiermaier singled, and Curt Casali got drilled by a Jacob deGrom fastball. I was legitimately worried that he broke Curt's arm. But that's not the bad part. The bad part is, it was called strike one. Because Tim Welke called it a swing on appeal, even though it clearly wasn't. But even this wasn't the worst part. What I was most disappointed in is that Cash didn't go all Earl Weaver on somebody. Casali would end up lining out to center, followed by a Jaso double play, so obviously you should be upset that the rally died, but come on: Rays rallies die all the time, that's not a big deal. I just don't see how you don't give any sort of protest at all. You at least have to let the guys know you have their back, don't you?
Geez, I sound like a talk radio caller. Never mind. Moving on.
Good Pitching Beats Good Hitting...Until it Doesn't
Now, if you like good, young pitchers showing off, this was a game for you. Jake Odorizzi and Jacob deGrom both looked sharp, especially early. With the Rays looking to be aggressive and hunting fastballs, deGrom threw more changeups and breaking pitches than usual, and he was very successful with them, giving up just two singles through the first three innings and looking generally nasty in the process.
Then Grady Sizemore did this.
The beautiful thing about this is that you can see Grady was actually fooled on this change, getting front-footed a little. But he managed to keep his hands back just long enough to lift the ball over the fence in right.
Odorizzi was dealing as well. He had yielded just two hits through five innings, while notching five strikeouts along the way. The fastball was working, the change, the curve, even the slider. Everything was in play for Odor.
Then leading off the sixth, Wilmer Flores hooked one toward 162 Landing. Clearly, it was a homerun off the bat. I knew, you knew, 20,000 Mets fans at the Trop knew. Even Jake Odorizzi knew it. Know who didn't know it was gone? Grady Sizemore, that's who.
The reaction shot from Jake says it all.
Back and Forth
Unfortunately, Jake wasn't so lucky with one out in the 7th, when he hung a slider to Juan Uribe. It might have been the first truly bad pitch he threw all night, but that's all it took. Uribe turned on it and hammered it deep to left, and if you took 20 Grady Sizemores stacked on top of each other, I don't think they could have caught this one.
Then after retiring Michael Conforto, Odor surrendered his first walk of the night to Travis d'Anaud. And that was it for the righty. 6 2/3 mostly brilliant innings, 4 hits, 1 walk, 6 strikeouts, 1 mistake, and Steve Geltz was in. It never ceases to amaze me how quickly a baseball game can turn on you. Thankfully, Geltz was able to retiring Kelly Johnson on a high pop to Evan Longoria. But it was a whole new ball game.
Hey did I mention that a baseball game can turn on you quickly? Because James Loney did this to deGrom leading off bottom of the frame.
deGrom missed his location, but Loney was keyed in on this fastball, so I'm not sure how much that mattered. Just a monster shot.
Cabrera followed with a long, nine-pitch at bat that concluded with a line drive double off the wall in right that finally chased deGrom from the game. His final line: 6 1/3 innings, 6 hits, 2 runs, 7 strikeouts.
The Rays' rally continued against relievers O'Flaherty (who hit Guyer -- well, more like Guyer stuck his leg out and took one for the team) and Parnell (who got cute with his curve and walked Casali), but fizzled before they could push across any more runs. This would come back to bite us later. But right now? Hey, it's 2-1, in favor of the Good Guys, with our best reliever coming on. We got this!
Have I mentioned that a baseball game can turn on you quickly? Jake McGee was cruising through the 8th, retiring the first two hitters easily, and had David Murphy down in the count 1-2, when Murphy turned on an up-and-in fastball that carried just over the fence in right. 2-2.
McGee did bounce back and strike out the next hitter, Yeonis Cespedes, with a 1-2 curve, and Jake curves are always fun. But they aren't nearly as much fun after a game tying homer.
But you know what is fun? Evan Longoria's power stroke. The embedable video isn't available yet, but make sure you click on the link.
Love the baseball grinding the yellow line, then finishing with an ollie. Bitchin'! 3-2.
STOP READING HERE
Brad Boxberger came on close it out, and have I mentioned that a baseball game can turn on you quickly? Sooo much happened in the 9th, it was hard to keep up. And you really shouldn't have to rewind and watch it again, so let me sum up as painlessly as possible. Which will not really be all that painless, because this was brutal.
1) Swinging bunt by Duda, wide throw into the baseline by Boxberger, past Loney, smartly backed up by Frosty to keep Duda at first.
2) Next pitch by Boxy is so wild and bounces so far away from Casali that Boxy ends up fielding it as Dude jogs into second. Ugh.
3) Uribe pops to Loney
4) Rookie Michael Conforto flares a low and away pitch he has no business hitting toward the gap in left center. Duda scores, Conforto hustles into second, tie game.
5) d'Arnaud grounds a ball that looks like a clean single to right to put the Mets up, but Logan Forsythe lays out for it and made a tremendous pickup. He throws home (it's doubtful he has a play on a'Arnaud, and I'm not sure if Conforno had rounded third?) so everybody is safe, but nobody scores.
6) Kelly Johnson smokes a liner, but right at Cabby for the second out.
7) Flores follows by flipping a shallow fly toward Guyer. Brandon does everything he can to make the catch but comes up just short. Conforto finally scores. 4-3, Boxy out, Colome in.
8) Colome fans Curtis Granderson on three pitches.
But was the drama over? Oh, no. The Rays still had one more at bat. Cabby led off the bottom of the ninth with a single, and hope sprang eternal. Hope was quickly erased when Brandon Guyer followed by grounding into an around the horn double play grounder. Or did he??? After huddling up, the home plate umpire (correctly) called it a foul ball. Guyer would eventually reach (another false ground out later) when Cabrera was forced at second on a grounder to third.
Kiermaier followed by grounding up the middle into a game ending double play...except Flores bobbled it and couldn't find the handle in time to get Guyer at second, and barely had enough time to get the low flying KK at first. So with two outs in the bottom of the ninth of this up and down, back and forth, topsy-turvy game, the Rays had the tying run in scoring position with Curt Casali at the plate.
Who struck out. Because sometimes, there is no twist. Sometimes things just end. Things like Hopes. Dreams. Baseball games.
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