Hendrickson Dunks Rays in the Harbor
Orioles 5, Rays 4
This was one of ” those ” games for the Rays. The were their usual selves, putting pressure on the defense and being totally aggressive on the diamond, but they were also a bit off mentally in their game against the Orioles. I man, how often is it that you have your normally pretty reserved catcher going ballistic on the Home Plate Umpire for calls. Dioner Navarro usually is pretty silent, and might only speak to him while they are both behind the plate. I almost want to call the brain farts last night. There were a few plays that defines the term to great accuracy, and then there was the way the Rays brought new meaning to the words.
I mean there was cause for alarm during the 5-4 loss to the Orioles because they actually had the base runners to make it an easy 7-5 win, but blunders and stumbles on the base paths made the score pretty one-sided most of the night. Let’s first look at a wild and curious play by Gabe Kapler in the fourth inning. After Kapler got on board with a walk by Mark Hendrickson, he subsequently stole second base and the n got involved in one of the most confusing plays to end the inning.
After Navarro struck out for the second out in the inning, Ben Zobrist came up and slapped a nice ball to Melvin Mora at third base, who then threw the ball to Aubrey Huff and first base, but Zobrist has beaten the throw. But there was a late indication by the First Base Umpire Derryl Cousins. This put Kapler between third and home and in no-man’s land. He was then quickly tagged out by Cesar Itzturis to end the inning for the Rays. One wasted Run.
But that was not the only major aggressive move on the night by the Rays. In the first inning, Carl Crawford might have set the table for the entire night when he slapped a ball down the first base line and challenged Nick Markakis arm early in the game. Crawford could have easily been in for a double, but being aggressive tonight, he instead tired to stretch the play into a triple. Markakis quickly got the ball to Brian Roberts on the cut-off and he fired a missile to Mora , who tagged out Crawford on the belt to end Crawford’s threat on the base paths. One Wasted run. But that is not the end of it all, Evan Longoria then took one of Hendrickson’s pitches to right-center field for his first home run of the game.
Both teams had sloppy moments in the game, but the Orioles rebounded from their mistakes and regrouped in time to save the game. In the top of the second inning, Orioles short stop Itzturis was going out for a shallow flair hit into center field and he pulled up at the last second fearing a collision with Adam Jones, and the ball fell to the turf as well as both players. Crawford also had his moments in the field too last night. In the second inning a hard hit ball by Orioles catcher Gregg Zaun fell just in front of Crawford. Then in the fifth inning, Jones hit a screamer that Crawford missed by inches for a double. In the same inning, Zobrist bobbled a hit from Mora for an RBI single. If he had caught the ball, it would have saved one Baltimore run.
Mark Hendrickson is only one of 11 players to ever play both in the MLB and the National Basketball League. He was the 1996 second round selection of the Philadelphia 76’ers. He was also selected the same year by the Toronto Blue Jays in the 20th round. And we all know which path he took to first in his career. After being selected by the 76ers, Hendrickson still played semi-pro baseball in the NBA off seasons, and actually signed on May 20, 1998 to play for the Toronto club in their minor league system during the summer months. He finally came back to baseball in 2000 after finally deciding his NBA career was over.
Who would have known how great a decision that was for him at the time. For a great example just look back a few years ago when Hendrickson was a starting pitcher for the Tampa Bay Rays. Does anyone else remember that it was Hendrickson who started the April 6, 2005 game at home against the Blue Jays that saw the Rays scored 6 runs in the bottom of the ninth inning to defeat Toronto 8-5 Rays Manager Joe Maddon his first Rays win. By the way, the win went to another current Oriole, Danys Baez.
But also the Rays tonight were toying with their 12 game winning streak against the Orioles. the Rays had gone 15-3 last season against Baltimore, and was looking to again take control early in the ball game. But Hendrickson bent in that first inning giving up two straight hits, but rebounded to only surrender Longoria’s blast. The second inning had a few rough patches, but went smooth for the tall leftie. He basically cruised through t
he rest of the game to complete 5.2 innings and give up only 6 hits and a solo run in 91 pitches. Not lost on the fact is that in the month of April, there is no better pitcher in the last few years than Hendrickson. His 1.71 ERA is the best in the MLB for the month of April.
I know that this streak of homers by Longoria is going to end at some time, but isn’t it interesting that this young player is not even giving the sophomore jinx a look this season. I know it is way to early, and a slump or two is going to hit him somewhere, sometime this year. But what kind of magic is there in the air right now with him hitting the cover off the ball in almost every game. We have played 4 games, and we have 4 Longo long balls. I am not going out on a limb and say 162 homers, that is insane, but isn’t the fact this kid is scoring most of the Rays runs also a bit off the charts.
So he has four homers in four games. That is not the most impressive statistic. He also has a RBI streak going of 4 straight games. That is the one that is impressing me more right now. The kid is producing early, and the Rays are feeling his heat this season. But his multi-homer game last night might be huge right now, but what does the future hold for this young up-and-coming star. Too early to throw his name in the hat for anything, but could the All-Star voters already be looking at the Rays box scores? I will leave you with this small gem from the Elias Bureau from yesterday prior to the Rays versus Baltimore game. Only two other players have had RBIs in each of their team’s first three games of a season after coming off a Rookie of the Year Award: Marty Cordova for the 1996 Twins (3 games) and Bob Allison for the 1960 Washington Senators (7 games). I think we are seeing the light of greatness come early for Longo.
Steady Sonny Falls from Grace
You want to cheer for Andy Sonnanstine, at least I do every time he hits the mound. The guy is as dependable as the Swedish Volvo. I mean the guy just goes out there and throws and doesn’t get rattled or hit around often. But like the ads for the auto state, it is the safest car in the world if their is trouble. Sonnanstine had his own accident last night, but still is dependable and good for the long haul. the guy had a bad night, plan and simple. His pitches seems to not be hitting their marks last night. Rays Manager Joe Maddon is famous for saying the “Starting pitching sets the tone for the game.”
How true was that last night. Sonnanstine came out and gave up to straight hits to dangerous base runners Brain Roberts and Jones, and they made him play early. In the first inning he gave up three hits, and also saw his team behind 2-1 before Luke Scott hit a fly ball to right to end the inning. But he also had a few innings that were vintage Sonny during the night. He got 1-2-3 innings in the third,fourth before getting into his final trouble in the fifth inning. But the fifth inning started out great with him getting two quick outs before Jones hit his drive to left field that Crawford could not pull in for a double.
From that point on, it was not his night. He then gave up a RBI single to right-center to Markakis. Then former Rays Aubrey Huff found a hole between short and third while the Rays were employing their usual left-handed shift. that set up the long fly ball to right that could not be brought in by Zobrist. that put men at first and third with two outs, but a Wild Pitch by Sonnanstine pushed Huff across the plate for a 5-1 Orioles lead. And that was the end of Sonnanstines night as Maddon came out to get him. He ended up going 4.2 innings giving up 5 runs on 8 hits while throwing 92 pitches.
Rays reliever Lance Cormier again came out and showed why the Rays had such high regard for him this season throwing 2.1 scoreless innings to keep his ERA to 0.00 for the year. So far this season Cormier, who got the last roster spot this spring has appeared in two games and given up only 2 hits in 4 innings. His control is impressive, and his long-reliever skills are much needed in the Rays Bullpen this year.
We all know that the Rays have seen an offensive explosion by Longoria so far this season. His second homer tonight was a 2-run blast to left field that was never in doubt. But it was Navarro’s solo shot to the first row in left field in the top of the ninth inning that brought the team closer to a win tonight. But both Akinora Iwamura and Zobrist could not repeat the magic and both struck out to end the Rays chances. Also another wild fact is that all 4 runs were scored on homers tonight. That is the same result from Thursday game against the Red Sox. So at this moment, the last 8 runs scored by the Rays have been manufactured by the long ball. that is not a great trend to repeat nightly.
Photo Credits : 1) Gail Burt
on / AP
2) Gail Burton / AP
3) Gail Burton / AP
4) Michael Dwyer/ AP
5) Gail Burton / AP