The human brain loves narratives. It’s just the way we are wired. Trying to make sense of the random sequencing that is life, to put it into cause-and-effect, has sustained us. Our passion for sports in general and baseball in particular are no exception.
But sometimes, Life — and especially baseball — likes to remind us that it’s all just one big, elaborate game of tag. Games like tonight, for instance.
Do you know what the turning point in a game of tag of is? Of course you don’t, because there isn’t one. Or rather, they are all turning points. So many turning points that the “narrative” ends up looking like a four year old’s refrigerator drawing by the time it is over.
Chris Archer took the hill for the Rays. His slider wasn’t sharp early, and he left several up over the plate. But he survived a full count at bat to Brian Dozier, striking him out on a 96 mph four-seamer, and a big, fat hanger that Joe Mauer swung through. So the luck dragons had turned! Maybe this had something to do with it:
Will point out FWIW #Rays Archer has switched back to the dark glove and the high socks after going turquoise glove and long pants last outing— Marc Topkin (@TBTimes_Rays) April 20, 2018
Go Team High Socks!
On the other hand, Team High Socks didn’t help him get his slider down to the struggling Logan Morrison in the second. Lomo launched it into the seats in right for a 1-0 Twins lead.
Archer seemed to settle down after the second inning, getting better depth on his money pitch and pairing it with a fastball that was truly excellent tonight, and a change up that he flashed to left hand hitters. The swinging strikeout of Jason Castro on a couple wicked bendy things, and a nasty change to retire Logan Morrison in the seventh (!) being prime examples.
On the day, Archer would go 6 2/3, surrender two runs on four hits, strike out five and walk only one (the last batter he faced). If I told that would be his line before game, you’d be ecstatic, right?
Well, you just haven’t watched enough Rays baseball.
Early in the game, the ball didn’t seem to be carrying. Which is odd considering what transpired later. But still: In the first, Carlos Gomez took a rare Lance Lynn curveball for a ride to the left, but it died short of the track. Brad Miller rocked a four-seamer to deep center for an out in the fourth, and LoMo tried a repeat performance in the fifth that rightfielder Carlos Gomez tracked down in center. Don’t ask.
The Rays got on the board in the third. Lynn, who had poor command all night, gave up a very non-competitive walk to Wilson Ramos leading off the innings. Mallex followed by hitting one deep in the hole. Escobar fielded it, but rushed his throw to get the slow footed Ramos and pulled Dozier off the bag. The play was ruled a hit, because I don’t know why.
Adeiny Hechavaria then grounded a single to center. The speedy Ramos ran through a stop sign from Matty Q to challenge the arm of Max Kepler. I’m pretty sure he would have been safe easily in any case, but the throw was cut off to prevent the other runners from advancing. Yet, someone, they advanced anyway. Because this game, man.
Denard Span then worked a walk to bring up the hot-hitting C.J. Cron, who was trying to extend an 8-game hitting streak that I didn’t know he had going on. Cron attacked the first pitch from the wild Lynn ... and popped it up to shallow center. Dozier and Escobar made the play more interesting than it had to be, but Escobar squeezed it for the first out, spoiling the hard work of the Rays’ screenwriter. Carlos Gomez followed by grounding into a 4-6-3 double play. Because of course he did.
The Twins took the lead back in the fifth on some sensational and almost sensational plays by Tampa Bay. With one out, Escobar hit a sinking liner to Mallex Smith in center. Smith made a valiant effort and appeared to snow-cone the catch, but ... uh ... the ball didn’t survive the ground? Or something. It was ruled a no catch on the field, and confirmed on replay, but it was a near-great and goofy play that could have made a difference in the game but instead was another in a long line of zig zags.
With Escobar on second, Kepler grounded to the right of Joey Wendle at second. Wendle made another almost-great play, but Kepler beat it out at first. Escobar advanced to third.
Finally, Hech came up with the webgem they had spent the whole inning looking for. And a run scored anyway. With the runner on first breaking and Hech covering second, Robbie Grossman grounded one behind him. Adeiny made a great diving play against his body to corral the ball and threw out Grossman, but Escobar scored.
The Rays grabbed the lead back in the bottom half of the inning. A single by Ramos and a walk from Hech brought Span to the plate with one out. Span worked a fantastic at bat, finally getting the low-and-away sinker he was sitting on and hooking it into right for a double. Ramos and Hech both scored.
Denard Span rips a double to right, bringing home two runs and giving the @RaysBaseball the lead! Watch all of tonight's action against the Twins live now on FOX Sports Sun and FOX Sports Go! #RaysUp #MLB pic.twitter.com/rHNY2hbWTK— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) April 21, 2018
After a Cron K, the Rays tried to tack on by being aggressive on the bases. Carlos Gomez hit a tapper to Escobar and busted it out of the box. Maybe busted it too hard? Because Escobar didn’t really have a play and just ate the ball. This made Span a sitting duck and he aggressively turned third and tried to score on what should have been a bang-bang play at first.
It was the right play that just didn’t work out, and if you think otherwise, wait a few innings.
The Rays tacked on three more in the seventh.
Lynn walked Mallex Smith to lead off the inning, then Hech doubled over the head of Grossman. A conservative read by Mallex left runners on second and third, and spelled the end of the night for Lynn. He would go six innings, get charged with five runs on seven hits, with five walks and seven strikeouts.
Lefty Taylor Rogers came on to get Denard Span.
He did not get Denard Span.
Span singled softly to right, and a good read from Hech plated both runners.
Ryan Pressly was next. He retired the next two hitters, but then walked Miller and surrendered a run-scoring single to Daniel Robertson.
6-2! We’re winning this one!
Jose Alvarado — who had replaced Archer in the seventh — gave way to Sergio Romo in the eighth after walking Grossman and striking out Castro. Then this game zagged again.
Dozier singled and Mauer walked to load the bases. But Romo rebounded to K Miguel Sano! It’s going to be okay!
(It was not going to be okay.)
Romo got ahead of Rosario 0-2, then buried a slider to the lefty. Rosario went down and got it, lifting it into the seats in right. 6-6, and it’s a whole new game of tag.
I would like to apologize for the role I played in the loss this evening. This is 100% my fault. I am truly sorry, and will try to refrain from celebrating too early. This L goes on me. I'm sorry I let down the fans in the Tampa Bay area. #RaysUp https://t.co/4yKTBmkTZi— Josh Morgan (@JoshuaTMorgan) April 21, 2018
Ryan Yarbrough came on for Romo and got out of the eighth. But Cash sent him back out there for the ninth, and Max Kepler hit a first pitch curveball out to right, giving the Twins their first lead since this game was a baby.
Fernando Rodney came on to close it for the Twins, and the Twin Cities’ answer to horse puns looked pretty dang sharp. He K’d the preordained hero Denard Span, followed that up with a K of the now-slumping Cron (what have you done for me lately, C.J.?), and got ahead of Gomez 0-1.
Then he hit Gomez with a fastball, because this game!
Then Gomez answered the prayers GDT commenters everywhere and stole a huge base early in the count.
Brad Miller followed with a rocket that ricocheted off the mound, deflected off Escobar’s glove, and rolled happily into centerfield. Gomez scored.
The @RaysBaseball aren't done yet! Brad Miller sends one into center to tie things up against the Twins! Extra innings are underway and you can see it all live on FOX Sports Sun and FOX Sports Go! #RaysUp #MLB pic.twitter.com/JqznYUiK9v— FOX Sports Florida (@FOXSportsFL) April 21, 2018
7-7 game, Twins. Tag, you’re it.
OKAY WHOSE IDEA WAS IT TO HAVE COLOME PITCH A PERFECT TENTH??? NOBODY IS GOING TO BUY THIS SCRIPT!!!
With Zack Duke pitching in the bottom of the tenth, Wilson Ramos laced a one-out double and was replaced by pinch runner Johnny Field. Duke then K’d Smith after some borderline calls put Mallex in the hole.
Then the Twins intentionally walked righty Adeiny Hechavaria to get to lefty Denard Span. And as Brian Anderson said in the broadcast, on one hand, I get it. But on the other...just no.
Span pounded a first pitch Duke curve into the dirt to Mauer at deep first. With Span running hard, Mauer’s flip came just in time. However, in the rush, Duke couldn’t find the bag. Span was ruled safe on the field.
Meanwhile, Johnny Field never stopped running. He scored from second easily with the winning run.
See, I told you this was a smart play.
The play was reviewed but the call stood.
Still 8-7 Rays!
They play the Twins again...I dunno, sometime tomorrow? I’m tired. Good night everybody.