Rays Win Wild Shootout Against the Tigers
This game had everything a fans would want. Extra innings, which is like “free” baseball. Drama and possible defining moments for this team. A closer episode that was close to implosion, and a setup guy who gave up only his first homer of the year in his appearance.
To say you went home from the game on Sunday thinking you got ripped off or missing any form of excitement would be criminal. The Rays battled back again and again in this hard fought contest and never seemed to raise the white flag to the Tigers. It was defining moment for this club that showed not only heart, but will in wanting the win.
It was a instant classic Rays moment that also had some sadness to it. We might have lost our starting shortstop for a few games, and saw a fan favorite get hit with a 96 MPH fastball square in the area of the heart. It was a pitch that made everyone in attendance gasp and also hold their breath for a few seconds. Oh, and we also had over 30,000 fans on a Sunday, which is a first in this team’s history.
It might not have been a picture perfect day outside for the fans to do other things, but hopefully the action and the determination on the field will want them to come back again, and again this year. And we had the first official “Grizzly Rocco” sighting on the Rays bench during the game.
Sometimes I have a great seat to hear if the outfeilders or infeilders call a ball in the air during the game. But in the 2nd inning, Akinora Iwamura and Eric Hinske were silent when Matt Joyces hit dropped to the turf in between them for a single in rightfield.
Neither player voiced any loud attempt to get the fly ball, and both seemed to pull up just inches from the scene of the crime. I am not going to thrown either of them under the bus here, just from now on guys, sing it loud and proud you want that horsehide.
Rays starter, James Shields had a pretty good outing today, but the Tiger’s offense picked their spots on him today and spotted up a 1-0 score after 3 innings. In the next 3 innings Sheilds only gave up 3 hits and another lone run to let the Tigers gain a 2-0 lead on the Rays.
Shields did enough to earn his win today by pitching 6.1 innings of 2-run ball, but the Tigers were stiff on the defensive side and Sheilds left with the Tigers still up 2-0 on the Rays.
The Rays were down 2-1, when the Tigers’ replaced starter Armando Galarraga in the 8th inning with newly acquired reliever Kyle Farnsworth. Eric Hinske hit the a fastball on the third pitch he saw from Farnsworth to right for his 18th homer of the season.
Hinske hit his 101st homer of his career, and the Rays are now 15-4 when he homers in a game. It started a Rays 8th innig that saw two great shots over the wall.
B J Upton, who had not hit a homer in his last 25 games. B J hit a high 2-run shot to center that cleared the wall by less than a foot. It helped put the Rays up 4-3 in the 8th inning. Going into today’s contest, the Rays have gone 58-0 when leading after 8 innings. Upton also got his 25th double of the season to go along with his 8th homer of the year for the Rays. On the day, Upton got 2 RBI’s to put him at 49 for the season.
In the top of the 8th, Grant Balfour came out and gave up on his only homer run of the season to Gary Sheffield to put the Tigers up 3-1. Balfour had given up only 4 extra base hits prior to Sheffields homer, all doubles.
Balfour had been the best reliever coming into the game with a .103 opponents average against him. He also has a 13.5 strikeouts per 9 innings mark, tied for best in the majors this season. He has shutout the opponents in 21 of 25 appearances this season. and earned the win last night in the game for the Rays to improve to 3-1 on the year.
When Rays closer comes on in the 9th inning, you can usually close the book on the game. Today, Troy was not sharp in the 9th inning and gave up a solo shot to Curtis Granderson to tie the game on the first pitch. Percival then took 10 pitches to get out of the inning.
Troy Percival has not pitched 2 straight innings for the Rays this season. Percival went back out in the 10th inning and gave up another homer to Miguel Caberra to put the Tigers’ up 5-4 on the Rays.
Trever Miller then came in and finished the inning for the Rays.
If you left this game after the 9th inning, you missed one of the most exciting Rays’ rallys in our history. With the team down 5-4, Tigers reliever Frenando Rodney came in to pitch the 10th inning.
Rodney walked the first batter Willy Aybar after a 9 pitch at bat. Jason Bartlett came up next and the real ecitement started for the Rays. Bartlett tried to put down a bunt on the first pitch from Rodney, but caught his index finger on the bat and split it open.
Bartlett was taken from the game and back-up catcher Shawn riggans was inserted to finish the at-bat. Riggans came up with one strike on him after Bartlett’s failed bunt attempt.
On the first pitch from Rodney, going about 96 mph, Riggans was hit squarely in the chest near the heart ans went down immediately to the ground.
The Rays medical staff rushed out to the field and in a few minutes Shawn was standing on first base, but had a difficult time breathing normally. the pitch had hit with enough force to knock the wind out of Riggans and left him gasping for breath on the ground.
Akinora Iwamura then hit a scarifice bunt to the catcher to advance Aybar and Riggans. Rays Manager Joe Maddon said after the game that Iwamura put the bunt down himself without the signal from third base coach Tom Foley. The play ended up being as brilliant move by Aki and helped put both men in scoring position with Upton coming to bat for the Rays.
Upton walked on 6 pitches to load the bases for the Rays. Carl Crawford then sliced a single to left that scored Aybar and tied the game at 5-all. Riggans was now on third and looked labored running around the bases for the Rays. Becuase Maddon had used everyone on his bench, he could not substitue anyone for Riggans to run for him.
Evan Longoria struck out and put the Rays with one out left in the game to try and get Riggans home from third base.
Carlos Pena came up and was down to a 1-ball, 2-strike count early in the at-bat. Carlos then saw 3 straight balls to earn a walk-off walk and secure the win for the Rays. It was Pena’s second RBI of the game, and one of the Rays most important of the season.
Upon issuing the walk, you could see Curtis Granderson in centerfield slap hid glove down in frustration in giving up 2 runs in the bottom of the 10th inning.
The game also saw another record go by the way-side. Trever Miller entered the contest decision-less in his last 122 appearances. Miller finally got to celebrate as he earned the win for the game, and put this huge gorilla of a monkey off his back.
Ex-Rays Bobby Seay, who was also in the game for the Tigers’ is the player Miller passed to secure his record. Seay had gone 116 straight appearances from Sept. 5th, 2001-Aug 24, 2007 without a decision.
What was lost in the victory was the alignment on the field if the Rays did not score the final run. Maddon had used all avaiable field players in that inning, and did not have any fielding substitues for Riggans, who has never played any position beside catcher in his career.
Maddon remarked that Edwin Jackson, who was drafted vy the L A Dodgers as an outfielder, volunteered to play rightfield for the Rays. Maddon quickly turned down the sincere offer.
Maddon had planned on moving Longoria to short, put Aybar at third, and taken Gomes off the DH to secure the 9 players needed to field the inning. With that alignment, the Rays would have lost the DH position and the pitcher would have had to bat for the Rays.
Great thing we did not have to find out how this all turned out for the team. Riggans could not have played regardless becuase of the labored breathing he was showing on the bases. He would have had to be pulled as a possible precaution in case of a chest injury or possible rib situation.
Post Game note:
Both x-rays on Riggans and Bartlett came back negative and both will sit out at least the next game to recover from their injuries. There is no timetables set yet as to the length of time either will spend recovering, with Bartlett seen bandaged and ready to go that afternoon.
Maddon will probably sit Bartlett for Monday’s game and re-evaluate the situation nightly after the games. Longoria will play short in his absence, if it is short-term. If the injury lingers, or Bartlett goes on the DL again, Ben Zorbrist will be brought up again from the Durham Bulls.
Riggans should be fine after a few days off and might catch again during the weekday homestand finale on Wed afternoon.