Friday, May 25, 2012
The Rays (Minus Luke Scott & B.J. Upton) Are Way Too Easy To Root For
They've had three chances (four if you count Opening Day) to get over that but they haven't done such a simple task that most mediocre baseball teams can do in their sleep. It's very possible that it might be June before it happens (if ever). Let that fully sink in and wash over you.
Tonight at Fenway Park, Tampa Bay (28-18, 11-11 away) opened up a 7-1 lead in the fourth inning before settling for a 7-4 victory in the series opener against Boston (22-23, 9-12 home).
Jon Lester's (3-4) outing was bad enough but this couldn't mercifully end without that wonderfully pointless exercise that's unique to baseball: intentionally hitting a guy with a pitch than both dugouts and bullpens emptying but absolutely nothing of consequence happening. The particulars of this event were Red Sox reliever Franklin Morales drilling Rays redneck racist Luke Scott on the hip in the ninth. It was all payback for drama earlier in the game (Burke Badenhop hitting Dustin Pedroia in the 6th). Things like that give me an ice cream headache. Nobody can be as sensitive as baseball players and the mock outrage when utterly predictable stuff like that occurs is equally pathetic. Who cares, as long as it's not hitting guys in the head.
Moving on, Lester was rocked. He lasted but four innings, allowing seven earned runs on six hits with four strikeouts and three walks. He served up three homers in less than two innings, always a winning formula.
Rays rookie Alex Cobb (2-0) got the win and it's good to see Tampa Bay finally developing some young pitchers. They haven't had enough of those in recent years that have found any success. Cobb went five innings, allowing two runs (one earned) on three hits with two strikeouts and four walks.
This shouldn't even have been competitive but as they've done all season, the Red Sox bullpen stubbornly kept them in it. Scott Atchison threw three scoreless innings while Matt Albers and Morales followed him with scoreless frames of their own. Combined they allowed only two hits with four strikeouts and two walks in five innings of work. Maybe Bobby V should think about reversing roles and having them start the game since Boston's starters clearly couldn't be less consistent.
Kevin Youkilis gave the Red Sox a 1-0 lead in the first with an RBI single. Matt Joyce (9th of the season) put the Rays in front for good with a grand slam in the third inning. Elliott Johnson (3rd of the season) and new Tampa Bay leadoff hitter Carlos Pena (7th of the season) hit back-to-back homers in the fourth with Johnson's coming with Chris Gimenez on base too.
Boston mounted its ill-fated rally in the fifth as Adrian Gonzalez hit an RBI double off the Monster to cut it to 7-2. Marlon Byrd had an RBI single in the sixth and Mike Aviles hit a sacrifice fly but Jake McGee was able to get David Ortiz to fly out to right (with two runners on) to end the frame.
Tampa Bay's bullpen was even more impressive (considering they had a lead) as McGee got four outs, Joel Peralta earned the hold with two strikeouts in a 1-2-3 eighth and Fernando Rodney had a 1-2-3 ninth with a strikeout for his 15th save of the season. I bet you didn't know that Rodney's ERA is 0.38. Really.
I don't know what kind of deal with the devil Joe Maddon made but it's insane when you sit back and realize what he's getting out of things like Pena leading off, Red Sox castoff Drew Sutton (2 for 3 with a walk) and Rodney as a lights out closer. If everything seemingly works for the Rays (in the regular season at least before their lack of offense kills them in the postseason), nothing is ever right for the Red Sox, who take one step forward and two steps back every week.
With Celtics-Sixers Game 7 on tap tomorrow night (8 p.m., ABC) and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals against the Heat on the line, I'm pretty sure about five people will watch all of the Red Sox-Rays game tomorrow (7:15 p.m., Fox). Four of them will be old folks that fall asleep in the third inning with the TV on. That's probably best since Josh Beckett (4-4) faces David Price (6-3).
I can already smell a Rays sweep this weekend while everyone is more tuned into parties, barbecues and the beach.