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Rays take 2-0 series lead in Dream Bracket before A’s come back to march on

The Rays had em on the ropes

Oakland Athletics v Tampa Bay Rays Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images

Day One of MLB’s Dream Bracket (previewed here and here, with the version here) is in the books, with eight of the 16 first round matchups concluding, and another eight to come tomorrow.

Among those eight Day One matchups was your beloved Tampa Bay Rays taking on the Oakland A’s. Despite nearly a century’s headstart, the series proved to be a fun one, with the Rays almost slaying the number two seed in the American League.

Let’s take a closer look at the games

Game 1: Tampa Bay 5, Oakland 1

It was Catfish Hunter vs. David Price in Game 1, and Price showed up for Tampa. The A’s got the first run of the game across in the top of the second inning courtesy of a solo shot from Jimmie Foxx. However, that would be it for the A’s all game, and the Rays used a monster game from Ben Zobrist (2-for-3 with two long balls and three RBI) to take the 1-0 series lead.

Game 2: Tampa Bay 3, Oakland 2

A low-scoring affair probably wasn’t shocking considering it was Lefty Grove vs. Peak James Shields. What may indeed be surprising is that it was Shields who got the win over Grove. Once again the A’s got on the board first, this time with Bert Campaneris knocking in Mickey Cochrane (god, this tourney is so cool) to put the A’s up, 1-0 in the top of the fourth.

The Rays responded immediately, however, with Evan Longoria going deep in the bottom half of the frame, and Julio Lugo giving the Rays the lead with a two-run jack the next inning. From there, it was a matter of the bullpen holding the lead, and the quadrumvirate of Alex Colome, Roberto Hernandez, Jake McGee, and Fernando Rodney getting the job done to give the Rays a 2-0 series lead.

Game 3: Oakland 8, Tampa Bay 7

This is the one that hurts. First the first eight innings, the story was much the same — albeit a higher-scoring version of that story. The A’s took the lead (3-0 in the bottom of the first), the Rays responded, taking a lead of their own in the third (4-3). The Rays extended that lead out to 7-4 thanks to the bottom of their lineup, and the held the A’s off the board in the fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth innings thanks to some stellar bullpen work.

Of course, they gave all that up in the ninth. With a three-run lead and on the brink of a 3-0 series lead, the Rays turned to the best closer they’ve had in franchise history: Rodney. Sadly, he wasn’t quiet his 2012 self, as he gave up four hits and a walk before getting pulled for an emergency Chris Archer who proceeded to give up a hit before issuing a game-winning walk to Rickey Henderson.

Game 4: Oakland 8, Tampa Bay 5

DON’T TRUST CHRIS ARCHER IN RELIEF (apparently). This was another close game, once again following the script of the series as a whole: A’s take an early lead (3-0 through two); Rays come back to take the lead (five runs in the fifth to go up 5-3), but sadly the A’s once again had the late response to even up the series at 2-2. This time it was the combination of McGee and Archer giving up three runs in the eight after Matt Garza blew the original save way back in the sixth. Huston Street got the win, and Dennis Eckersley got the save for the Athletics.

Game 5: Oakland 5, Tampa Bay 0

This was the Catfish Hunter game. as the A’s ace got a little revenge on David Price, tossing a four-hit shutout on 106 pitches. The A’s 6-7-8 hitters (Cochrane, Sal Bando, Eddie Collins) got the job done, combining for seven hits to lead Oakland to the series lead.

Game 6: Oakland 7, Tampa Bay 0

With the Rays back home for the final two, having won the first two at the Trop, the A’s never gave them a chance, jumping up 3-0 in the first and making it 4-0 in the second. That would be more than enough for Grove, who bounced back from his Game 2 loss to look more like his classic self, going eight shutout with 11 strikeouts and just one walk. Barry Zito acted as the human victory cigar, taking the ninth to close out the series, 4-2 in favor of Oakland.

* * *

Zobrist had probably the best series for the Rays, hitting .278 with a pair of long balls. Longoria hit .250 with one homer and three RBI, but those were the only Rays to even hit .250 (the box scores just show BA, and I’m not about to go and calculate everyone’s OBP, even though I kind of would be curious).

The Rays didn’t use Rodney even once more after his Game 3 blowup, leaving him with a 36.00 ERA and the certain goat tag, as his blown save in Game 3 was undoubtedly the turning point in the series.

The A’s now face off with the White Sox in Round 2, and I’ll be rooting for Oakland to make a bit of a run so that the Rays can say they lost to a legitimate contender. Here’s a brief recap of the rest of the action:

  • The Red Sox and Rangers proved to be the most entertaining series of Day One, with the Sox going ahead 3-0 before almost (ironically) blowing the 3-0 lead. The Rangers won Games 4-6 and held lead into the eighth inning of Game 7 until a pinch-hit Grand Slam from Carl Yastrzemski pulled the rug out from under their feet and sent the Sox into the second round...
  • Where they will face the biggest upset from Day One, as the Toronto Blue Jays took out an impressive Minnesota Twins/Washington Nationals franchise that saw their (all-time) ace, Walter Johnson out-dueled not once, but twice by Roy Halladay.
  • The biggest bummer of the day was seeing the Negro League All-Stars taken out in the first round by Cleveland in a not-as-fun-as-it-should-have-been Game 7.
  • The Yankees marched on in six over a pesky Mariners side; the Astros pulled a mini upset (that this author predicted), sweeping the Orioles (OK, I didn’t see that coming) in what can only be considered a momentous day for Big Trash Can; the Reds and Nationals went the full seven, giving the day for Game 7s (woooo!) with the Big Red Machine surviving a first-round scare from the Zombie Expos.
  • Day Two action gets underway at 10 a.m., with “streams” of the games going live on the MLB Twitch channel at 11 a.m. Day One was honestly super fun, so I’d suggest y’all check it out, even though the Rays are out of it.
  • Once again to anyone who cares, since the Rays are out of it now, I’ll stop writing recaps/stories about the Bracket for DRB, but I may put some thoughts up on my Medium page since I know I’ll be following this closely.