I'm ready to come clean. I've been a bad fan. I live about an hour and a half from Tropicana Field, but haven't attended a Rays game since June. That was rectified yesterday evening as I attended Rays / Rangers at the Trop.
My wife and I got to St Pete early, marveling once again at the pre-game food and beverage options near the ballpark that just keep getting better and better. We stopped in at Green Bench for a pint of a delicious sour brown and a delightful conversation with a couple in town from Tampa.
After that, we walked across the street to the Trop to settle in for first pitch. Odorizzi looked sharp all day. His post-All Star Break renaissance continues, as Jake gave up just six hits, a walk and a run over six frames. He was a joy to watch.
The Rays bats got started early in the first inning. Corey Dickerson hit a monster shot to right field that bounced into the stands for a ground rule double. Longo sent him home two pitches later with a base hit to left center. Dickerson beat Profar's throw and put the Rays up 1-0.
Luke Maile put the Rays up 2-0 with a solo shot in the second, his first big league home run. He took AJ Griffin's 1-1 pitch for a ride, way out onto the tarp over the cheap seats in left field.
Odorizzi's one mistake came on a 1-2 pitch to Rougned Odor in the top of the 4th that hung a bit up and away. Odor knocked it out to left field to narrow the Rays lead to one.
We went to get food in the 5th and seemingly missed very little. The carnitas tacos from the Trop's Taco Bus are outstanding, and they pair deliciously with Green Bench's 2-Seam Blonde Ale.
I'm glad we made it back to our seats for the 6th because that's when things got interesting. Adrian Beltre hit a comebacker to Odorizzi that bounced off of him for a single. There was a short injury delay, but Jake would continue. Soon after, with two outs, Jonathan Lucroy doubled to left center off the glove of a diving Souza Jr. Mikie Mahtook chased down the deflection, fired it in to Tim Beckham who threw it perfectly home to Maile to beat Beltre by several feet. Strangely enough, however, Beltre was called safe which would have tied the game. A replay was called for, and he was so obviously out that the Rays players had all trotted off the field and back into the dugout before the call had even been reversed.
In the bottom of the frame, Longo swatted his 28th homer out to left field to push the lead to 3-1. We've wanted this season from Longo, and we've gotten it. It's a shame that it comes during such a down year.
The Rays blew it up in the 7th. Tim Beckham hit a first pitch triple in the gap in right center. TBex showed off his wheels as he hustled to third. Beckham went 2-4 with two triples on the day, and scored both times he got on base. I love seeing this kid do well. Souza Jr sent him home with a single to right center. 4-1 Rays. Luke Maile followed that up with a beautiful sac bunt, beating the throw and moving Souza into scoring position.
What happened next still has me completely perplexed. With two on and no outs, Mikie Mahtook looked to make it back to back sacrifice bunts. He showed bunt very early every pitch, in the middle of Kela's windup, erasing any doubt. Eventually Mikie ended up with two strikes on him, clearly ending the bunt show. Only it didn't end the bunt show. Mikie continued to show bunt early, for several pitches with two strikes. He eventually fouled one off, resulting in a foul bunt strikeout and walking back to the dugout to a chorus of boos. I mean... what on earth was happening there? Did Mikie take it upon himself to continue the bunt attempt with two strikes pitch after pitch? Or was this Kevin Cash's genius idea? Either way, I learned not to do that when I was about eight years old. I'm not a fan of the sac bunt, period, and I'm even less of a fan of it when it happens at such a silly and ill-advised time.
Mikie's mistake ended up being a non-issue, though, as Keona Kela walked Evan Longora to load the bases before Brad Miller doubled to clear them. Everybody goes home! 7-1 Rays!
In the bottom of the 8th, the TBex & Souza combo struck again. Beckham hustled to third for his second triple of the day, and Souza knocked him in with a double to right. 8-1 Rays.
A bullpen battery of Cedeno, Erasmo, Romero and Jepsen took over for Odorizzi to finish the game. The only blemish there came from Jepsen in the top of the 9th. Nomar Mazara lifted a fly ball to right center towards the Rays tank. A Rangers fan seemingly reached over the railing to make the catch, resulting in a home run. The play was reviewed and the call on the field was upheld.
I am not allowed to comment on fans, particularly those who interfere with the game, so I am going to leave this be and not touch it. You are welcome, Danny. It was tempting.
The Rays won. I had a blast. I don't care that we've lost a whole lot more than we've won this year. There is no better day than a day at the ballpark.