Breathe in, breathe out
It’s 6:55 and I’ve been in a state of nervous anticipation for, I’d say, about 12 hours, although work did afford some distraction. Are the players this nervous? I sure hope not.
Thanks to a few years of yoga and those natural childbirth classes I’ve learned to work on relaxation techniques and I’m using them all now.
Breathe in, breathe out.
7:10, the game finally starts. Charlie Morton hasn’t been lights out of late but he’s probably the guy I want on the mound tonight. He’s a good pitcher and will know how to control the moment.
In the first inning, he is ON. Fastball is sharp, that curve just drops into the strike zone. He’s ahead of everyone and has a one-two-three inning with two strikeouts.
This is a baseball game. The loser is not fed to the lions. This is supposed to be fun. FUN I TELL YOU.
Rays turn. Wendle is first up, and he lines a 103 mph frozen rope but it is practically into the right fielder’s glove. Bad luck but good start. Meadows gets ahead but pops it up. Pham strikes out.
I can’t help noting that old friend Drew Smyly is not helping us out tonight. He and his 6.30 ERA are the Phillies starter against Cleveland and he begins the game with a walk, a double and a single. Cleveland’s up 1-0 and look like they are about to have a big inning.
To start the second inning, the luck dragons look like they are on Boston’s side. Bogaerts hits a dribbler along the third base line. Duffy hopes in vain it will go foul. It doesn’t. It’s a hit. Morton goes up 0-2 on Benintendi and then paints the corner with a curve, but it’s called a ball. A few pitches later it’s 3-2. Thanks ump. But Benintendi hits a soft liner that looks like just the kind of crazy hit that will fall in but it doesn’t. Duffy, shaded over in a shift, catches it. Brock Holt K, Moreland ground out. Damn Charlie is looking good.
On the broadcast, Dewayne remind us that this is the anniversary of the Rays clinching a playoff position in 2008. He also reminds us that there were 36,000 fans in attendance. For some reason both these reminders make me even more anxious.
Rays hitters are, after the opening liner by Wendle, not getting much done against Porcello. Choi opens the second with an ugly strikeout. d’Arnaud falls behind 0-2 before grounding out. KK gets all of a hanging breaking ball but it’s just foul (KK had gone full batflip on it and had started his celebratory trot before the foul call), and Kiermaier is then out on a grounder.
Somehow Cleveland is batting again. Or still batting. I’m not sure, but it’s 3-0 over Philadelphia.
Our Charlie is still looking sharp. 1-2-3.
Bottom of the third, the Rays get their first hit, a grounder to third that Devers can’t quite field when it hits the third base bag. We’ll take it! With Garcia running, Duffy hit a hard grounder through the short stop hole to put runners at the corners. Adames strikes out. Wendle skies out to left, Garcia tags, starts to run, then scrambles back. What the heck? At least he made it back but now there are two outs are we’re already ruing the chicken on the bone. Meadows watches 79mph center cut; has an excuse me foul ball for strike two, and swings and misses at a fastball to end the inning.
Why is Porcello suddenly able to paint corners? Meanwhile the Phillies don’t seem like they’ve even bothered to show up. They are getting no-hit and trailing Cleveland 4-0. At least Smyly is gone.
After getting two quick outs in the fourth, Morton gives up a second hit to Bogaerts and then walks Hernandez. But he comes back to strike out Brock Holt. He’s still sharp. You know what would be nice? Giving him some run support.
But not, apparently, this inning. At least Ji-Man Choi gets a hit - an actual line drive out of the infield. That’s it. Porcello is ahead of every batter. A lot of called strikes down the middle — what do these pitches look like out the hand? Rays hitters seem stymied.
Starting on my first glass of wine. Pinot Grigio.
Top of the fifth, Red Sox get another two out infield hit, despite excellent stop by Duffy and impressive split-stretch by Choi at first. But a quick pop up ends the inning. Morton is pitching one of his strongest starts in quite a while, on a night when the Rays really need it.
This game is a great old-fashioned pitching duel. Except I really don’t have the patience for a pitching duel. Rays need a no doubt, rack up the score win. But that’s not happening in the bottom of the fifth. Garcia falls behind 0-2 before grounding out. Duffy starts with that 85 mph fastball down the middle for a called strike. Please tell me why Rays hitters are watching that pitch? Why? Isn’t that exactly the sort of pitch you are eager to hit? He strikes out.
We’re in the sixth inning. Charlie still looks sharp, with his seventh strikeout. Oops, Devers hit one deep — warning track deep - but it’s caught. Is that the first Red Sox ball out of the infield? It feels like it.
Phillies have now scored two and trail 4-2, but that just makes me irritated that they allowed Smyly to dig such a deep hole for them.
Porcello is apparently still unhittable. Even Austin Meadows, - red hot Austin Meadows! — is watching an 88 mph fastball down the middle of the plate. Austin, swing the bat! It’s like someone has cast a spell on these guys. Rays have like 2 hard hit balls tonight. OK Pham hit one to centerfield that required a good leap play by Bradley Jr. but it wasn’t THAT great a play and in the end it’s still an out. And the Rays are done in seven pitches. SEVEN PITCHES.
Breathe in, breathe out. IT’S JUST A GAME. I AM FINE.
Morton back out for the seventh. He’s still sharp and strikes out the first batter. OK maybe less sharp, because on his 100th pitch he gives up a double to Brock Holt. Cash comes out I assume to get Charlie. But wait, Cash is going back to the dugout. Charlie is still on the mound. OK, so we’re not doing the quick hook tonight.
This is what we all wanted, right? You’ve got your ace and you let him work out of this, right? OK maybe not. Mitch Moreland gets behind 0-2 — two really good curves! —and then on that third curve he homers over the centerfield fence. Boston leads, 2-0.
At the risk of “I told you so-ing”, this is why Cash likes to pull pitchers before and not after than big mistake. And in this case, Cash knew that Moreland hits righties really well, and lefties not so well, so maybe Morton shouldn’t be facing him for the third time in scoreless game. Charlie, listen to your manager!
Oliver Drake slices up Jackie Bradley, Jr. and gets the Rays quickly out of the inning.
Rays hitters have nine more chances to make this right. And Red Sox are going to their bullpen in the seventh, will this be better? Not at first, but at least Rays are getting behind on 97 mph rather than 87 mph fastballs over the plate. Much less embarrassing. Choi strikes out, d’Arnaud down 0-2, manages a single. Jesus Aguilar pinch hits for Kiermaier (who has had a really awful few weeks at the plate. Something like three for thirty in September), and draws a walk. Pinch runner Guillermo Heredia takes his place (and will presumably move into centerfield) and Mike Brosseau come to bat for Avisail Garcia, which is strange, and not in a good way. NO INJURIES ALLOWED. NONE. (Later report: he was having some dizzy spells) I really did not want our season to come down to a Mike Brosseau at bat.
But Brosseau walks, the bases are loaded, and Boston decides to find a pitcher who can find home plate. They bring in a righty, and the Rays counter by pinch hitting Nate Lowe. I do not have confidence in Nate Lowe! His swing seems to me very slow and loopy! I really hope I am wrong about that!
Lowe hit a little looper that was a hair away from being an inning ending double play. But the ball travelled just slowly enough for Lowe to beat out the throw at first, and the run scored on the force. 2-1. Not the impact you are seeking from a Nate Lowe but OK.
But that’s OK, because we have Willy! And he hits a double down the right field line!
The bad news is that it leaves the playing field for a ground rule double. It scores the tying run but strands the go-ahead run on third. But, score tied with runners on second and third with two outs, and Joey Wendle at bat. Wendle didn’t do much but Boston pitcher Josh Taylor did it for him; a wild pitch allowed Lowe to score from third. Rays have a lead. A lead! 3-2.
Breathe in, breathe...oh to heck with the breathing it’s really not working.
So now the Rays simply needed to get six outs. That’s all. That’s doable. Even though Boston’s lineup is, I will admit, darned good. And we’ve gone from an outfield of KK and Garcia to one of Heredia and Brosseau. Nick Anderson comes in for the eighth. First out, strike out of Betts. Next, walk of Vazquez. What? Anderson isn’t supposed to walk batters. This walk is so uncharacteristic it prompts a Snyder mound visit, most likely because Devers, up next, is so good. But you know what? Anderson is good too. Three 96 mph fastballs, three whiffs, two guys out. Ground ball, three guys out, and we never needed to find out whether that outfield would be able to make a play.
Cleveland now up 5-2 in the eighth. Doesn’t look like Philly is going to help us out tonight. Maybe Texas will do the Rays a solid and take down Oakland?
Bottom of the eighth would be a nice time for an insurance run. And that’s just what happens! Meadows walks, and then Ji-Man Choi doubles, with his ball going deep enough into right field that Meadows was able to score, 4-2.
So Pagan comes in to hold that lead. And it’s clear, this is not his night. Triple. Hard hit liner to center that, thanks to a great throw from Heredia does not score the run. And then Mitch Moreland does it again. Two strikes. A two run homer ties the game, 4-4.
I mean....Emilio Pagan has been lights out just about every time. Cash went with his best. It didn’t work.
Sometimes being a baseball fan is just the worst.
Extra innings. The tenth (Meadows hits one deep but it’s playable). The eleventh (Castillo strikes out Moreland. Amazing!) Thanks to injuries, pinch hitting and pitch running the Rays line up now has Heredia, Brosseau and Robertson in a row and none of those batters seem likely to end this game in one swing. But Brosseau and Robertson do both draw walks, so there are two on but also two out. Runners will be going on contact so even a decent single can score a run, and with that in mind Cash puts in Johnny Davis to run for Brosseau.
Cleveland has won; Oakland up 3-0 on Texas.
No pressure Willy, but the season is riding on this at bat.
AND HE DOES IT!
Willy singles, the speedy Davis scores, and Rays win 5-4!
Just how we imagined it, right?
Breathe in, breathe out