Red Sox Force a Game 7 Showdown
I got a text about 2 minutes before the first pitch that TBS had some sort of malfunction in Atlanta and most of the country got to watch an old Dick Clark America’s Funniest Videos for a while. I guess some one either for got to plug in one plug, or Atlanta decided that the “Heidi Game” needed a 2008 twist.
I was told that the channel got it corrected about the middle of the 1st inning and all was well in TV-land. I even heard that they were kind enough to recap the inning and show B J Upton’s catwalk homer to the home audience. Well, TBS (Totaled Botched Signal) I guess we can forgive you if you can lay off the pro-Boston comments for at least one more day. I am sorry we are ruining the networks plans of a Boston vs. LA series, but another team also is at fault………..blame Philly, they throw snowballs at Santa Claus.
Umpire Goes Down
It was a night for the weird and unusal at the Trop. I was told by a friend in the St. Petersburg Police Department that only about 7 people had to be escorted out of the building tonight. That is a major improvement over the 32 or more that had a bad night about a week ago for Games 1 and 2. But that was not even the wildest thing to happen in the game.
In the top of the 4th inning, Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek finally hit something tonight. He actually got his first hit off the home plate umpire, Derryl Cousins. It saeems that when Varitek fouled off his 0-2 pitch, it hit the mask of Cousins and traveled down towards the shoulder and chest area.
At the top of the 5th inning, Cousins conferred with Umpire Crew Chief Tim McCelland ans they decided that he had to be removed from the game and transported to a local hospital. McCelland came out in his gear and officiated the rest of the game as the home plate umpire.
The rest of the umpires then did the Harlem Shuffle and they left the leftfield outfield area vacant becuase they did not have an additional umpire on hand to take Cousins’ position. Word finally came back that Cousins had suffered a bruised Clavicle and would possibily return for Sunday’s contest.
B J Upton’s En Fuego
To say that B J Upton is hot is an understatement in the ALCS. His 1st inning shot off the “C” ring at the Trop. would have cleared the Green Monster tonight again. It was a grand high shot that would have maybe reached the Beach if the ring was not there. That give Upton now 7 homers in this playoff season, which tied him with Former Angel Troy Glaus, who hit 7 in 2003. It might only be 4 homers in the ALCS, but Upton is putting on a show at the plate during this series.
James Big Game Shields
The Rays were questioned when they decided to swap their starters for Games 5 and 6. I really do not see the hassle since tonight’s starter was a combined 9-2 at home this year and it would also have put him back in line to pitch the first game if we clinched tonight. Shields has been one of those guys this year who wants the pressure cooker situations and has come out smelling like a rose on most nights.
Tonight, tho, he did get into trouble early, when Red Sox lead-off man Coco Crisp laid down a bunt towards Evan Longoria, but it was moving so slow there was no play. Shields did make amends as he picked Crisp off of first after the thrid pitch to Dustin Pedroia.
Shields then got into trouble early in the 2nd when lead-off batter, Kevin Youkilis hit a 1-2 count hanging fastball overe the left-centerfield wall to tie the score at 1-all. He then gave up 2 hits to the nest three batters before getting control of the inning and getting the last 2 bstters to fly out to strand 2 Boston baserunners.
In the 3rd inning, he walked Pedoia, who advance to third on David Ortiz’s double down the rightfield line. Youkilis then hit a ball to Jason Bartlett and Pedroia waltzed in to put Boston up 2-1. In the 3rd inning, Shields threw 31 pitches and issued 3 walks to the Red Sox.
Shields was cruising along until in the 5th inning, J D Drew hit a liner just over the glove of Gabe Gross in rightfield for a double. Drew ended up getting stranded on base. In the 6th, Shield gave Jason Varitek his first hit in the ALCS, and his first homer that went into the first row of Section 146 in the Trop. That did not end the scoring in the inning.
Crisp then came up and hit a single off Shields that deflected to Akinora Iwamura, but he could not get a throw off in time. Shields exited the game after Crisp’s hit and went 5.2 innings and gave up 9-hits and 4 runs on the night.
Rays Bullpen Troubles
Rays reliever J P Howell then came on to try and get the last out of the 6th inning for the Rays. This brought up Pedroia again, who hit a ball to Bartlett, but the throw went high and wide of Pena and the Red Sox had runners at the corners with 2-outs.
David Ortiz then hit an RBI-single to center to score Crisp and put the Red sox up for good 4-2. Howell threw 1 inning tonight and got 1 strikeout and gave up a single hit for the night. His ERA is sitting at 3.60 for the Rays. He also hit Jason Bay in the 7th inning to put a Red Sox runner on with 1-out.
Grant Balfour then came on in the 7th inning and walked the first batter, Jed Lowries before settling down and getting Varitek to fly out to Gross for the last out of the inning.
Chad Bradford then came on in the 8th inning and Pedroia hit a ball back up the middle that hit Bradfors in his leg and he completed a high but good throw for the first out of the inning. The Rays then Intentionally walked Ortiz. The plan worked out great for the Rays as Youkilis hit into a perfect 5-4-3 around-the-horn double play to end the inning.
Bradford then came out for a quick fly out by Drew to left, and a grounder to Bartlett for an easy 2nd out before leaving the game. Trever Miller then came in and got Mark Kotsday to hit a pop up to Longoria to end the top of the 9th inning.
The mighty shortstop is not known for his power, but tonight hit a slowly curving ball that evaded the leftfield foulpole for his first postseason homer of his career. It was also the 2nd homer this year for Bartlett. They Rays did not have alot of offensive power tonight as both their runs came off homers by Bartlett and Upton.
Unusual Offensive Night
The Rays had a few plays that made you just sit and wonder tonight. With the Red Sox up 2-1 Bartlett got hit on the elbow by a pitch and the Rays could not capitalize on the play. The Rays usually could and would have gotten somehting out of that play in recent games.
In the 4th inning, Carl Crawford reached out for an outsdie pitch and sent a dying quail into left for a single. He then stole second base and with Cliff Floyd at the plate, the Rays looked like they were about to do something in this game. But Floyd hit a hard ball down the rightfield line that was stopped by Kotsay, who barely got the throw to Beckett in time to get Floyd.
Then in the 5th inning, Dioner Navarro hit a nice single to center to start off the inning. Then he tried to steal second base, and was gunned down by Varitek. After Zobrist hit a long fly to center for the 2nd out, Bartlett hit his homer to left. If Navarro had not tried to steal the base, it would have been a 2-run shot for Bartlett. Longoria walked in the 6th inning, but a Crawford double play ball ended the inning for the Rays.
In the 7th inning, the Rays went down 1-2-3 on 12 pitches. In the bottom of the 8th inning, Bartlett was again hit by a pitch and was stranded on base by a quick strikeout and 2 pop ups to second base. In the 9th inning, the Rays went down 1-2-3-, with Willy Aybar hitting a strong liner down the third baseline that Youkilis grabbed to end the game.
Gabe Gross in Rightfield
I mentioned the play in the 5th inning before, but above is the picture of that liner hit by Drew. Gross started to go back on the ball, and either it changed flight, or he lost it for a second in the lights as the ball went about 6 inches to his right before falling to the turf.
In the bottom of the inning, Gross was pinch-hit by Ben Zobrist, who remained in the game in rightfield for the Rays. For the ALCS, Gross has gone 0-10 and had a few mis-guided play in right. Some poele say he had a chance for the ball on Thursday night, but we will never know as the ball skirted over the wall for the game winning single.
Weird thing there, since Drew did not go past first base, he was credited with a single only and not a ground rule double on the game ending play. Some say that Gross had a straight shot at the ball if he left his feet and dove at the ball. But that is hind-sight at this point.
In the 9th inning of tonight’s game, the Rays bench did not have that electric look it has had all season long. It seemed a bit subdued and emotion-less for the first time in a long time. If the Rays are to win tomorrow’s Game 7 showdown with the Red Sox, they need to regain that fire tonight.
There is no time to sulk or pity anything tonight. They have to get that motivation back and recharge themselves to take the Red Sox on by the throat and throttle them tomorrow night. It is a due or die situation, with the winner getting to play again on Weds. against the Phiadelphia Phillies. With a Rays loss, not only is their season over, but they will give the Home Field Advantage gaunlet to the Red Sox.
They have to come out like gangbuster and take this series back, or head to the golf course. I personally want to see a little more baseball this year guys, so let’s go out and kick some bean-town booty tomorrow night. This town has been crazy the last month or so, more than it has in a long, long time. And you guys are the reason for it. Treat yourself, treat the fans, and treat the nation to a little more Rays-ball this Fall.
See you at the Champagne bin.