Kazmir Pitched Gem to End Curse at Fenway
Dan Johnson was probably at home in Durham when he got the call sometime during the A.M. hoiurs to pack a bag and get on a flight to Boston to join the Rays during their current roadtrip. Johnson along with newly acquired catcher, Miguel Hernandez boarded a flight for the big leagues and arrive at Fenway Park at 6:45 P.M., just before the first pitch of the game.
Johnson had been acquired when he was put on waivers by the Oakland A’s earlier in the season as an insurance policy against Carlos Pena having to go on a extended DL stay after he had his injury the last time we were in Boston. Johnson was sent to Triple-A 48 hours after arriving in St. Petersburg, and has been instrumential in the Bull’s run for the Governor’s Cup.
Johnson’s addition to the roster is to brovide more power in the Rays bench in the coming weeks against some high power pitchers in the AL. Jonny Gomes was also listed as a candidate for the move, but it was decided he would provide the Bulls with the needed power as they try and win the Governor’s Cup from the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees.
Hernandez was brought up as a insurance policy for anbother back-up catcher with the recent injury to Shawn Riggans. Riggans has a bursa Sac situation on his knee that might be infected and prolong his stint from behind the plate. With neither John Jaso, or Hernandez having any working time with the Rays pitching staff, it would put the Rays in a huge disadvantage if Dioner Navarro would go down any time soon with his hamstring problems. Let’s hope that Navarro and Riggans can endure and keep the good catching duo healthy for the rest of the season, and beyond.
Rays Magic Number Is: 18
Combined with a Rays win, or Red Sox loss, this is the number needed to secure the AL East Crown for 2008.
To say Dan Johnson has been waiting for this moment for the Tampa Bay Rays might be an understatement of huge proportions. Johnson, who was with the big club for only 48 hours earlier in the season came back up tonight and provided the single most important drive of the franchises’ short history. To say his pinch-hit homer was less than a miracle at the time would be underestimating the pressure and the effect it had on this young squad.
Johnson, facing one of the major leagues best closer took a 3-2 count and crushed the next pitch by Jonathan Papelbon into the Red Sox Bullpen area for a 4-all tie in the top of the 9th inning. The look on Papelbons face said it all last night after the homer.
He was dejected and unsure of his pitches the rest of the inning. It was only the 4th loss of the season for Papelbon, but it secured the Rays being in first place when they exit Fenway Park tomorrow night after the rubber game of the series.
During the game, the Rays went 0-14 with runner is scoring position before Dioner Navarro’s liner into the leftfield corner in the 9th inning. The drive scroed Fernando Perez, who had hit a high and deep ball off the Green Monster for a double earlier in the inning. The score put the Rays up 5-4, and the Rays finally had a scoring opportunity to finish 1-15 with RISP for the game. It was one of the most important RISP attempts this road trip for the Rays as it sealed the first win in Fenway Park this season for the Rays.
The Rays put constant pressure on Red Sox starter Diasuke Matsuzaka. The Rays had baserunners in every inning of the game, but the 8th inning, and the Red Sox kept the game close until the 9th inning. Carlos Pena got the first hit on the night on a single to rightfield in the 1st inning. Dioner Navarro and Gabe Gross then got back-to-back single to right to put a Rays runner in scoring position for the first time last night.
In the third inning, Akinora Iwamura lead off the inning with a bunt single that had Matsuzaka falling off the pitching mound in pursuit of the play. Ben Zobrist and Pena then got back-to-bakc walks to load the bases for Cliff Floyd. Floyd was the hit by the second pitch by Mastsuzaka in the knee and scored Aki from third on the play. The Rays then sqaundered 3 chances to score more runs and ended the inning up only 2-1 on the Red Sox.
Gabe Gross then hit a single off the first base bag that sent Kevin Youkilis running for the ball in the short rightfield. Jason Bartlett then put a screamer down the third baseline to score Gross from first and put the Rays up 3-1. The Rays had Willy Aybar in scoring position in the 5th inning, but could not convert to get him to the plate. In the 6th inning, Aki got a lead-off single to right, but was stranded on second after 2 Rays’ batters.
In the 7th inning, Aybar again led off and singled to left. Fernando Perez then walked on 12 pitches to put Aybar again in scoring position. The Rays did nor capitalize on the inning and were a combined 0-14 at that point in the ballgame with runners in scoring position.
In the 9th inning, Dan Johnson led off the inning with his first hit and homer for the Rays when he pinch hit for Justin Ruggiano. Aybar then hit a long fly ball to Coco Crisp in center for the 1st out of the inning. Fernando Perez then hit the second pitch from Papelbon off the Green Monster and doubled to put himself in position to put the Rays in front in the 9th inning. Navarro then hit the second pitch he saw down the third baseline into the corner and Perez scored from second to put the Rays ahead 5-4.
Scott Kazmir put up one of his best starts of the night in one of the biggest games in the Rays history. Kazmir was not invloved in the final decison of the ballgame, but was instrumental in getting the Rays into position to win tonight. Kazmir went 6 innings and posted 5 hits and gave up two runs on 108 pitches.
Kazmir had his fastball looking great all night and used his slider to compliment his pitches tonight. This is the first time this season that Kazmir has relied alot on his slider. His slider is a great out pitch for him, and he used it selectively all night long to get the Red Sox batters’ off balance at the plate. Kazmir even looked to be throwing better in the 6th and 7th inning, then in the beginning of the ballgame.
Kazmir did run into trouble early in the game when he gave up a single to Dustin Perdroia in the 1st inning. Perdroia has been very effective against Kazmir this season. Kevin Youkilis then hit a high drive off the Green Monster to score Pedoria from first and put the Red Sox up first, 1-0.
Kazmir then sent the Red Sox down in order until the 4th inning, until Mike Lowell hit a solo homer over the Green Monster get the Red Sox back to within 1 run, 3-2. Kazmir then got out of trouble in the 5th and 6th inning to leave the ballgame after 108 pitches. Considering Kazmir pitched 28 times in the 1st inning alone, his long night is a testament to his pitching style and power.
Grant Balfour came on in the 7th inning and sent the Red Sox down in order 1-2-3 in the inning. Balfour has now pitched in 9 of the last 17 games for the Rays. He currently leads all MLB relievers with a 12.95 strikeout per 9 innings ration. If this statistic holds up, it will be the 2nd highest total ever by a reliever and the best total ever by a righthander in the AL. His .136 opponents batting average against is also tops in the Al, and 2nd in the majors this season.
But in the 8th inning, Dan Wheeler came on and gave up a walk to Youkilis with 2 outs in the inning. Jason Bay then came up and hit his second homer in two days to put the Red Sox up 4-3. Wheeler then got Lowell to ground out to Bartlett to end the inning.
In the 9th inning, Troy Percival came on to pitch and gave up a walk to Mark Kotsay to start the inning. Jacob Ellsbury came on as a pinchrunner and stole second base on a throwing error by Navarro to put the tying run in scoring position for the Red Sox. But then Jason Varitek struck out, and two straight fly ball out sealed the victory for the Rays, and earned Percival his 28th save of the season.