You Win Some, You Lose Some… A Tale of Twofer’s
Not sure why, but this abbreviated 2-game series against the New York Yankees felt so bitterly anti-climatic. Made the fact that neither the Tampa Bay Rays or the visiting pinstripes can thrust their chests out as the absolute “ winners” or “losers” of this peculiar series.
Maybe the pure fact that each squad left the Tropicana Field AstroTurf on Tuesday night sporting identical 1-1 seasonal records took some of the emotional victory out of it all. We are going to have to get used to it this week as 2-games series will dot the Major League Baseball landscape as a way to get the MLB schedule in line for the fast approaching InterLeague showdowns starting this weekend.
It really felt odd during this series to not have that third game to push a bit of supremacy to one team for at least a little while. With only 2 contests in this series, it was hard to focus or even divulge which team might have an advantage in the final 16 games between these two increasingly bitter rivals.
Each of these contests showed a display of polar opposite styles of play with one teams just seeming to not be quite in tune, or just a step behind.
With the Rays playing under the .500 level at home this season ( 11-13), this series really had me worried since the Rays had not scored more than 5 runs in their last 22 home games. Suddenly in the 6th inning, the Rays finally found their missing cask of mojo and quickly posted 5 runs on the board in front of the home crowd.
Oddly enough, the offensive outburst came after Rays Ace David Price was out of the ballgame and did not fact into the decision. Their energetic explosion included 3 Home Runs and helped paced the Rays to their 24th victory of the season. The opening series win got the Rays on the threshold of possibly finally secure a .500 mark at home this season.
The Yankees came into this series with a bit of drama within their ranks, but possibly the loss to the Rays on Monday night pulled them together enough to put out a great effort on Tuesday night to supplant the Rays dreams of hitting that home .500 mark. These 2 games were as different as night and day for each squad as they took turns taking advantage of each other’s minor mistakes, missed pitch locations and each dug the knife in deep to provide enough momentum to secure a win.
The Tuesday contest started to show some signs of being a great pitching display match-up between Rays veteran James Shields and Yankee youngster Ivan Nova. Each pitcher made a few early mistakes and saw solo shots by Rays INF Elliot Johnson and Alex Rodriguez exit the ballpark into the grandstands before the Yankee began to fluster Shields to produce a second error to Rodriguez, plus spot the Yankees to a 4-1 lead.
Somehow the Rays did not have the guns to provide a second night of lighting up the Trop’s roof orange and could only muster another run thanks to a Ground Rule double down the Rightfield line by Ben Zobrist in the bottom of the 9th. 6-2 was as close as the Rays would get as Mariano Rivera came on to get former teammate Johnny Damon to ground out to first for the Yankees 21st win and gain a game on the Rays.
But the night was not without drama. Well, at least on the Rays side of the coin. In that last inning, Rays catcher Kelly Shoppach hit a high fly ball deep into the stratosphere of the Trop that seemed to bounce off one of the infamous catwalks.
In every video replay you can see without a doubt the path of Yankees Leftfielder Brett Gardner was alter and diverted by the “ping-pong” action of the ball as it careened off one of the overhanging steel structures. Gardner did somehow position himself under the ball even with a last moment change in his body direction to bring the ball into his glove.
Initially it looked like the ball had hit the C-ring, which would award a solo Home Run to Shoppach. Rays Manager Joe Maddon urged Home Plate Umpire Gary Darling and the rest of the crew to convene and discuss the play for a possible review.
The Umpire crew made the right decision to review the play as it was not clear by television replays whether the ball bounced off the B-ring, or the C-ring. One would produce a Rays run, the other the second out of the inning.
In the end, the Umpires got it right as post game video showed the ball struck the B-ring on its lowest point before heading towards the C-ring. That made it a catchable ball resulting in the inning’s second out. This contest really wasn’t that close, but the Rays have a habit of last inning heroics, and at that moment Rivera was not in the ballgame.
When you play a divisional rival, you love that third game so you can vocally display your pride. This 2 game series basically added a single win to each team’s record, provided some interesting fodder for the future contests, and above all showed that these 2 squads are closer in abilities than their payrolls suggest.
Sure I would have loved a second win on Tuesday night to provide a statement by sweeping the Bronx Bombers, plus the addition of finally getting back to a .500 record at home. With the Rays heading out on a 8 game road trip, which includes a 2-game series in Toronto, plus 3-games series each against the Tiger and Marlins before the Rays hit the comfort of home Turf again.
By ending up the series at 1-1, it did not give either team an advantage in the American League East division except take one win away from each other. This series did not have the usual pomp and circumstance of a Yankees stroll into the Trop, possibly having a bit of the internal drama within the Yankees organization stealing some of the thunder of the match-up.
These two high powered squads will not mix it up again until a 4-game series (July 7-10) in the Bronx as the last series each team will have before the All Star break. In the end this abbreviated series got each team’s feet wet in their 18-game seasonal series.
Gave each team’s pitchers and hitters a quick glimpse into what each team has to offer, and what changes need to be implemented before their next battle. Still kind of weird that here we are in mid-May and this is the first time either team has played each other in 2011. I guess you win some, and you lose some, even in the battle of the MLB schedule