The Rays entered Thursday night's contest against the Tigers looking to win back-to-back games for the first time in two weeks; two long, numbing weeks in the world of the Tampa Bay fan base. We saw shutouts and blowouts; we watched wins slip through the Rays' fingers and games we never had a chance at winning from the get-go.
Baseball is funny (read: frustrating) like that.
And in a sense, to me anyway, that's how this Rays team has struck me through the first half of the season: a perfect microcosm of the entire sometimes fun and frustrating baseball experience, felt by one club.
We've seen our own share of big wins, but they seem so miniscule when marring, frustrating losses like tonight's gem-turned-dumpster-fire pile up.
To me, it was a complete effort from the fielding, offense, and starting pitching. Hell, even Matt Andriese came on and worked three scoreless in relief. Odorizzi was dominant if not durable, throwing 105 pitches in less than six innings. He racked up seven K's and only allowed three walks. He had a one-hitter going until he got to the sixth inning, where he gave up two earned runs on two hits before yielding to Andriese.
The defense turned three double plays, including two ground ball double plays off the bat of the voracious-hitting Miguel Cabrera.
The offense did its part, tacking on seven runs of their own, and four of those coming in a perfect storm type of inning in the third, where a two-out mistake by Tigers' starter Jordan Zimmerman to Evan Longoria led to a base hit, which led to an RBI by Brandon Guyer. Zimmerman fell apart after that, loading the bases before the hot-hitting of late Nick Franklin un-cleared them with a three-run double. Catcher Hank Conger and second baseman Logan Forsythe, who did Logan Forsythe-things, like go 3-for-5 and get involved in all three double plays, added eighth inning RBIs, which the Rays would certainly need.
Of course, a microcosm of a baseball season wouldn't be complete without injuries, and Thursday night was no exception, as yet another Rays' outfielder left a game early. After a line drive double, Desmond Jennings grabbed at his hamstring rounding first and was replaced offensively by Franklin and defensively by Guyer who shifted over from right.
You know, they say a baseball season is a long affair and you have to play all 162 games. Well, a single game can be a long affair, and you have to play all nine innings.
Enter Ryan Garton.
Remember that thing about the complete effort I mentioned? Yeah, Garton and Ramirez didn't get that memo.
Nothing like giving up four straight hits in the top of the ninth of a 7-2 game to really let the air out of the balloon.
Then going to the equally ineffective Erasmo Ramirez, who inherited the bases loaded, and let those runs score, reloaded the bases, and let those runs score too, to really take the balloon, shred it into pieces and run it over with a freight train.
What started as a ninth inning with a five-run lead and a feel good victory to-be turned into a 10-7 deficit, leaving Kevin Cash and Jim Hickey scratching their heads, Odorizzi begging Matt Silverman to trade him to the Marlins and make the rumors true (probably), and the Rays' collective fanbase frustrated, disappointed and, possibly worst of all, not surprised.
At least we shouldn't be surprised.
We lost 11 straight games less than a week ago.
We saw this exact same movie, albeit on a lesser scale, numerous times over the past two weeks. The Rays, particularly the bullpen, has found ways to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.
Tonight as a whole was another perfect example of the microcosm motif (my high school English Language teacher would be proud) I've been using. The Rays looked so promising, with the perfect opportunity to succeed. It came so close, but yet, fell short when it counted.
These are the losses that hurt teams, that cripple momentum, and bring morale to a grinding halt; granted, what morale was left after losing 11 straight (I think I mentioned that already). When the whole team works its collective ass off to get a much needed win, after such a tumultuous run, and two players choke it away, locker rooms become sensitive places.
If this season was going a different way, a better way, this loss would have me fuming. I'd be weaving a colorful tapestry of swears that HBO would be proud of. But not tonight, not with this season.
After this game, this season, I finally understand the feeling behind the most cutting thing I ever heard as a kid growing up and I can finally relate to my parents (I don't have kids of my own, so this is about as close as I'll get for a while): I'm not mad, I'm just . . . disappointed.