Only one word can describe tonight’s game: heartbreaker. The Rays had many chances to take the lead and also to limit the damage done by the Twins but they came up short, many times. At least we started seeing signs of some clutch hitting, but the pitching did not have it’s best night. Final’s week is approaching so let’s cut to the chase.
Basically we were looking for a nice encore from James Shields and it was not. While it wasn’t terrible, Shields ran into trouble and had to grind this start out. He had a rough first and an unpleasing sixth. Just when it looked like he was going to work out of a bases loaded jam, Shields yanks a cutter and hits Brian Buscher. The command was not all there tonight but he did only surrender three runs in all, so again not a terrible start.
What Went Right:
I’ve claimed several times before that the Rays possess the two best bench players in the Major Leagues. Willy Aybar hit a double and drove in a run and Ben Zobrist smacked a pinch-hit homerun on the first pitch of the ninth off Joe Nathan. Had the Rays won, it definitely would have been up there with his grandslam earlier this year, and his homer against the Blue Jays last night. But still a memorable shot.
B.J. Upton is starting to show signs of turning it around. He didn’t record a hit but his timing looks better as he’s starting to make solid contact. He also drew two walks but did K again.
What Went Wrong:
Other then a couple hiccups from Shields, J.P. Howell had a rough ninth which decided the game. He gave up a leadoff hit on a 2-2 count to Jose Morales, an infield nubber to Denard Span and a wild pitch which led the pitch around of Brendan Harris. Although we can’t fault this completely on Howell has he got Justin Morneau to hit a sharp ball to Akinori Iwamura which could have resulted in an inning ending GDP had Aki not had trouble with it. So take your pick on who you want to fault. However, the ball was smoked by Morneau so saying that it was just bad luck wouldn’t be a bad idea.
The team went 2-11 with RISP and stranded eight. So again, they had their chances.
The Rays face another rubber game when Scott Kazmir goes out to try and give them their first series win since the opener at Boston. I’d say tomorrow’s game is crucial for the Rays to get some sort of momentum going into a big series this weekend at the Trop against a red hot Red Sox team.