The Rays and Red Sox have played a lot of games since 1998. The Red Sox have won most of them. There’s been some important ones (mostly for the Sox). There’s been some controversial ones. And there’s been some fighting ones.
But there has never been one as big as tonight’s game.
8.37 EST, Tropicana Field, St Petersburg. The Rays will start playing for a place in the World Series.
It is almost unbelieveable…
You know the story. A nightmare start to the roadtrip. More injuries. A struggling offense.
And then the Rays effect takes over.
Due to one thing and another, I’ve just finished watching Wednesday night’s game three of the Boston series. I watched games one and two on Wednesday and Thursday, hence the longer than usual net lag delay. But, in the end, it was worth the wait.
After arriving in Boston, things started with a scare as reliever Juan Salas had an epileptic seizure. He’s fine, and back with the team, but its harldly a calming way to start a crucial series. Then the game came, Edwin Jackson gave up three runs in the first inning, and things looked grim…
There are certainly easier ways to a sweep.
Not letting a (admittedly impressive) rookie one-hit you into the seventh inning for one. Not having your closer blow a save with his first pitch, and then give up the go-ahead run to the first batter in extra-innings for another. And not having your shortstop get hurt in trying to put together a second comeback after the first two have occurred.
But who wants the easy way, right?
2-0 down, and nothing to show apart from an Evan Longoria infield hit is where the Rays found themselves at the seventh-inning stretch yesterday…
At the moment, its really fun to be a Rays fan. Really, really fun. And its not just because of the winning either. I mean sure, thats a very nice bonus after 10 years of losing, but it is just a bonus. Because this team is just flat out great to watch.
Its a very strange combination that we’ve got going at the moment. Its part never-say-die battling, and part super-clutchness. I can’t think of any other way to explain it…
So it wasn’t quite a sweep of the Yankees this week, but despite losing on Wednesday, last night’s win makes it three straight days that the Rays have been looking down on the rest of the AL East. And you know what, I like the view.
So, it might not last. Who cares when you’re playing such good baseball. And I’ll tell you something for nothing…
Not quite the home opener that the new, improved Rays had been after, methinks. I watched the first 5 innings last night, before tiredness and the thought of getting up for work got the better of me, and while it was an enjoyable game, it was also one of those where you have the feeling that its just not going to be your night…
After the frustration of wednesday night, last night’s game at Yankee Stadium was a joy to watch for a Rays fan. It wasn’t just a question of getting a W in the books against the Yanks (though that is always nice), but it was the way we went about it.
It started off well in the top of the first, with CC stealing second, moving over on a ground out, and scoring on a Cliff Floyd single.
The third was probably the most pleasing inning we’ll see for a while – with Ian Kennedy struggling, the Rays hitters properly took advantage. All too often it seemed last year that when the opposition starter didn’t have his best stuff we would score maybe one or two, but miss out on a big inning through impatience at the plate. Last night was different though. Aki Iwamura (who reached base all five times he came up) led off with a single, CC grounded out, Pena walked, Upton singled home CC and Floyd walked, loading the bases.
That should have brought Dioner Navarro to the plate, but instead up came backup catcher Shawn Riggans for his first at-bat of the season, and his first ever with the bases loaded. Far from being over-awed, Riggans worked a 3-1 count, and then belted a bases-clearing double out to right centre. That knocked Kennedy from the game, but Eric Hinske greeted his replacement with the first of his two doubles, scoring Riggans and pushing the Rays lead to 6-0 after 3.
Maybe that should have been that, but with the Yanks getting back at the Rays on the bottom of the inning the win was far from secure. Until the eighth that is, when, with two outs, we put the game well beyond the reach even of the big Yankee bats. The inning started innocuously, Cliff Floyd adding an insurance run with his second homer of the year, sandwiched between two groundouts. Then things got fun. Hinske doubled. Haynes singled. Jason Bartlett singled, scoring both. Aki singled. CC singled, scoring Bartlett. And for the final exclamation point, Carlos Pena ripped a three-run upper decker. 13-4, game over. Adding runs when the pitcher is struggling. That has got to become the rule rather than the exception for the Rays.
Our pitching, on the other hand, was a delight. Andy Sonnanstine was quite exceptional – save for a very shaky bottom of the third. Sitting watching our scoring seemed to knock him off his stride as he gave up four runs straight back. But he regrouped, and retired the last 10 batters he faced, ending with a line of 6 IP, 6 H, 4ER, 4K, 1BB and the W. In relief, Trever Miller was solid, while Dan Wheeler and Scott Dohmann were superb. Wheeler took just 4 pitches for the three outs in the 7th, and Dohmann was simlarly efficient in shutting down the 9th. Very pleasing all round, and I hope that there will be plenty more to come from them.
The only downside of the night was the bizarre incident that was the cause of Riggans’ pinch-hitting exploits. Apparently, Dioner Navarro slipped going into the dugout, badly cutting his throwing hand. So badly, in fact, that he’s been placed on the DL, promoting Riggans to starter, and seeing the return of original-Devil Ray Mike DiFelice, after an absence of 7 years, as his backup.
Day game at the Stadium today, Edwin Jackson will be making his season debut for the Rays, weather permitting. Also worth looking out for – Jonny Gomes will be making his first start of the year, while young utility infielder Elliot Johnson will be making his ML debut.