Zaun Zaps Rays for Series Win
It is simply amazing that the Rays still have the best record in baseball considering we have lost 3 out of our last 4 games this week. I know the Chicago Cubs, and the L A Angels have had their handsful this week also, but who would have thought you could hold onto the best record this late in the season after losing three games in 4 tries.
That is just a sure sign that there are alot of teams out there gunning right now for the guys at the top. This is the month of the year that teams can play the spoiler role and make a good team squirm under pressure or fold like a deck of cards. The Rays are squirming a bit, but they have not shown any intention or reaction to acting like a house of cards.
Rays Manager Joe Maddon is as optimistic today as he was after sweeping the Cubs at the Trop. He knows you have to play them one at a time, and the baseball gods will sort it all out for you. But seriously, this is the time of the year that the Rays need to make an offensive statement and not just try to win the game. They need to gather steam this month and use it to propell them to success in the post season.
The worst thing you can do as a playoff team is coast into the post season with no forward momentium or enegry. That would produce a flat result, which could mean an early exit from the playoffs. I consider this season a success just becuase we finally got a winning season.
I truly believed we had the motors to roll over Boston and New York, but that they needed another year to mature and rise to the occasion. But I will take all the positives and hope that the Rays are just taking a light breather and will come out and be fir on ice against the Red Sox and Yankees in their home turf this next week. We can not have a sweep at either stadium, or it might just push us below Bosotn for the first time in a long while. And if we pop below the Red Sox, it might take a small miracle to get basck to the top before the end of September.
Rays Magical Number : 21
This is a combined number of Rays wins, or Bostons losses to finish as AL Est Champions.
James Shields has gotten the nickname, “Big Game James” this year from his teammates. Little did he know that the game would go so far into the afternoon, and little did he know how huge his pitching performance would hinge on the Rays either winning or losing this series to the Blue Jays.
Shields threw 8 innings today and gave up only 3-runs on 6 hits to the Jays. He only had trouble in a few inning today, but they were costly problems for the Rays. In the 1st inning, Shields looked a bit frazzled as the Jays put the first two men on base as Joe Inglett singled to left, and Marc Scutaro hit into a fielder choice to remain at first for Alex Rio. he then took a 1-1- pitch to deep center field and scored Scutaro to put the Jays up early 1-0. The ball was hit so hard the B J Upton could only watch it bounce to the wall before getting it and preventing a triple by Rios.
Shields only had one situation in the 2nd inning, when he gave up a solo homer to Lyle Overbay on the thrid pitch of the inning. That put the Jays up 2-0 at the time. In the 4th inning, Overbay again became a nemesis of Shields as he hit another homer after going 2-0 against Shields to stake the Jays to a 3-0 lead.
Shields did get the Toronto batters to go down 1-2-3- in the 5th, 7th and 8th innings to shut down the Toronto offense and give the Rays a chance to tie the game. Shields left after throwing 96 pitches in the 8 innings of work, but the Rays were down 3-0 at the time.
The Rays offense was stymied until the 9th inning by the pitching of Jays starter Shawn Marcum. In the first 8 innings of the game, several Rays tried to put the team up early against the Jays. Akinora Iwamura went 3-4 in the game and hit the first pitch he saw today for a single to centerfield. Aki did it again in the 3rd inning, hitting the first pitch for a single up the middle. So on the day so far, Aki had 2 singles on 2 pitches from Marcum.
Dioner Navarro did get a single in the 5th inning to right, but was stranded there by the Rays. In the 6th inning, Carlos Pena got a single to right but was left on base after a pop out to leftfield by Cliff Floyd. In the 8th inning, the rays had a sliver of light when both Ben Zobrist and Aki walked to put a man in scoring position for only the second time today. Up to that point, only Aki had been beyond first base for the Rays today. So in all, the Rays collected only 4 hits on the day, and 4 walks by Pena, Upton ,Zobrist and Willy Aybar.
Speaking of Willy Aybar, he was caught leaning in the 2nd inning after walking on 7 pitches from Marcum. Aybar had a late break to second and never had a chance to really steal the base. Jays catcher Greg Zaun threw a lox strike to Scutaro to nail Aybar with a foot to spare to erase the Rays only base runner in the 2nd inning.
The Rays did however put themselves in holes today on the bases by committing 5 double plays on the day. The ended the 1st, 5th ,8th innings on double plays. The Rays also struck out 7 times in the first 8 innings, with Aybar and Eric Hinske each getting 2 strikeouts for the Rays.
The Rays did finally get on the offensive board in the 9th inning. With Jays closer B J Ryan on the mound, the Rays quickly evened the score at 3-3. Ryan started the rally by hitting Pena with a pitch in the back arm. Then Rocco Baldelli came out ans pinch hit for Cliff Floyd. Rocco took a 2-2- count breaking ball to leftfield for his 3rd homer of the season and quickly got the Rays back into this game.
Aybar then walked on 5 pitches and was replaced by pinch runner Fernando Perez. Perez quickly got the Jays attention by stealing second base ans scoring on Dioner Navarro’s single. Navarro was gunned down trying to stretch the play into a double at second by Jays centerfielderVernon Wells. But the score by Perez evened the score at 3 and the team went into extra innings.
The Jays had a chance to win in in regulation as Scott Rolen doubled with 2 out to left center and stood in scoring position for Toronto. Zaun then came up and hit an infield single to Jason Bartlett. Bartlett could not get a throw off to first in time, but caught Rolen sneaking off third, and the Rays got him in a run down to secure the third out of the inning and get the game into extra innings.
Aki again hit a single in the 10 th inning, but was the victim of a Upton double play to end the inning for the Rays. In the 11th inning, Pena hit a single down the first baseline and moved to second on a wild pitch to Justin Ruggiano to get into scoring position. But Ruggiano struck out to end the inning for the Rays.
In the 12th inning, the Rays had their best scoring chances of the game as Zobrist got a double with 2 outs in the inning. Aki and Upton then walked to load the bases for Pena. Pena then hit a high towering shot to right that was grabbed by Alex Rios for the 3rd out of the inning. Coming into that at bat, Pena was hitting .328 with the bases loaded for the Rays.
The top of the 13th inning had Rocco single to left to start the inning and Perez hit into a fielder’s choice with Baldelli out at second. Perez then went to second on the pinch hit grounder to first by John Jaso. Perez then got his 2nd stolen base of the night by taking 3rd, aone pitch before Navarro singled to right to score Perez and pout the Rays up 4-3. Bartlett then walked on 7 pitches and set up another scoring opportunity with Zobrist at the plate. Zobrist ended up striking out on 5 pitches to end the inning.
From the bottom of the 9th inning until the 13th, the Rays sent 5 reliever to the mound. Dan Wheeler lead off the 9th inning, with J P Howell, Chad Bradford,and Grant Balfour pitching up to the 13th inning. During that span, the Rays only let 1 batter get into scoring position, and that was Rolen in the 9th inning.
The Rays sent their closer, Troy Percival out for the 13th inning against the Jays. Percival got the hot hitting Rio to pop out to Pena before giving infield single to Wells, on a bobble by Aki at second base. Then Brad Wilkerson hit a 0-2 pitch to left field for a single and put Wells in scoring position.
Overbay then came on and hit into a fielder’s choice, with Wilkerson out at second to put men on the corners with 2 outs in the inning. Rolen then waked on 4 pitches to load the bases for Zaun. Percival then tried to get Zaun to chase a curveball, but Zaun hit the first pitch over an out-stretched Baldelli hanging on the rightfield wall for a walk off grand slam and the victory for the Jays.
That shot by Zaun sealed the series for the Jays and put the Rays in a spot to go within 2 games of the Bosotn catching the Rays for the AL East lead. This was Percivals’ 4th blown save of the year. Since coming back off the DL on September 1st, Percival now has a blown save, and a loss in his last 2 appearances for the team.
In that time Percival has thrown for 1.1 innings, and given up 4-hits and 6-runs, and 2 homers. This was the first game this year that the Rays lost when he blew a save opportunity. Coming into this game, the Rays were 33-0 with Percival on the mound, and won in extra innings the 3 other blown saves he encountered this season.