Mark Carlson / AP If you missed last night’s Rays and Rangers game, shame on you. First off, you missed a classic game of two teams bashing back and forth to try and gain control of their own sets of destiny for the 2009 MLB Playoffs. Secondly, you missed a game that had more excitement, suspense and total energy inside Tropicana Field since the 2008 playoff push. The air was purly electric static with huge charges of excitement even before the game knowing that this 3-game series could be either a starting point, or the ending to fulfilling the team’s playoff goals.
And the crowd of 20,634 that did attend the game last night felt like a crowd much louder inside Tropicana Field. For all 27 outs tere was noise and energy flowing from every side of the stidum knowing that their cheers and cowbells could possibly make a difference in this struggle. But the true hero of this Rays night did not hit, and did not even score a run in this contest. No, the true hero of this game was the re-emergance of our leftie ace back in the saddle and throwing with gusto last night.
It truly looked like vintage Kazmir last night, and we have missed that guy a lot since 2008. But people are eager to forget that every special game, every moment where the team is behind the eight-ball, there has been Kazmir standing on the mound. Seriously people, this is the same guy who busted the Fenway Park curse in 2008, then out did himself with the Rays first victories in the American League Divisional and Championship series last season. Sure in 2009 we might have seen a very sebdued Kazmir, but the fire and the intensity have still been there in the 25-year olds body.
And how much do we forget he is still only 25 years of age and leading this club in almost every pitching category for the team. How soon we forget this is the same guy who in 2007, just outpaced ex-Twin Johan Santana for the AL Strikeout crown. But sometimes as fans we forget too soon of the good that a player has brought to this franchise. We seem to have tunnel vision at times to all the things this guy has meant to this team in the past, in the present, and inthe future.
Mark Carlson / AP But there was so much suspense going on besides Kazmir last night. Oh there was a series of home runs that defied the usual course of action by hitting or being grabbed in the field of play. From the Ben Zobrist home run into Section 140’s front row that was actually fan interference, but the umpires and the Rangers did not challenge the call.When Zobrist sent that line drive into the stands, it actually ended up popping into a fan’s glove just 9 inches from the yellow line at would make it a clear home run.
A Rays fan in that section leaned forward and actually grabbed the ball before it got to the green colored upside-down “U” shaped piping beyond the playing field. Now if he had not grabbed it in that area, it still would have been a home run, but the fan did not even take into account it could have made it a 1-run double instead of a two-run homer by his leaning forward over the wall for the ball instead of letting it come to him in his seat. that action could have caused the Rays to lose that 2-run advantage if it was reviewed by the Umpire crew.
But the fact would prove moot as Carlos Pena then came up and hit an oppositie field shot to post back-to-back homers by the Rays in the inning. But the home run by Pena not only thrust him back in front in the AL Home Run race, but was also a growing trend of him hitting opposite field shots. And it might be a great thing that he is not bending his back so much and is getting all of the ball early through the zone and sendig it to leftfield.
But the home run of the night that sent the most curiosity and interesting discussions might have been the first home run every hit by Texas Rangers catcher Taylor Teagarden. With one out in the eighth inning Teagarden hit a long, high and towering shot that cleared both the “C” and “D” rings before finally hitting a guide wire that supported the Batting Practice netting used to save the windows of the Batter’s Eye restaurant in centerfield.
Mark Carlson / AP B J Upton was camped under the ball when it hit that wire and went immediately downward towards the outfield wall. The ball took an immediate 45 degree turn and bounced off Upton’s wrist befor finally falling to the outfield turf. The Umpire crew did do the right thing by conferring on the home run before finally waving Teagarden home for his first home run of the season.
But unless you saw the game on television, you did not know about the wire coming into play until you either got home, or saw the video replays in the post-game show. But signaled the beginning of the end for Kazmir that night, and he faced two more batters before finally leaving to a standing ovation from the home crowd. He truly looked like the old Kazmir who would take the ball when a win was needed and turn in a great outing. He might not have been as dominant at the plate as in the past, but he truly got the job done last night.
And with one game out of the way, and both teams in front of us in the AL Wild Card race losing last night, it was a true “win-win” situation for the Rays. But as Rich Herrera of the Rays post-game show always says, “The most important game is your next game. The most important series is your most important series.” And I guess that sums up playoff push baseball at its finest.
Mark Carlson / AP Last night was a game you knew would have some wild explosive events, but it lived well beyond its own build-up. Tonight might be more of a pitcher’s duel as two hard-throwing righties will take the mound for both teams. Fiery Matt Garza will bring it for the Rays, while hard-throwing Tommy Hunter will counter for the Rangers. Tonight’s game should be a closer contest with mistakes showing up critical at any moment of the game. But at this time of the year, every single mistake, every single extra base hit, and every single cheer from the crowd could make an extreme difference in th games.