A’s slip by Rays 5-4

Hakuna Matata. No Worries. You’ve gotta put your behind in the past, er, uh, put the past behind you. An all too appropriate Disney moment when contemplating a Tampa Bay Rays game I’d love to forget, one that smelled of ass.

The Bay area boys lost their second game in a row to the Oakland A’s and once again there was a crucial play in the field that changed the game. This time, however, it was an error by Ben Zobrist which allowed the winning run to score on what should have been a routine ground out to end the eighth inning; instead, Cliff Pennington was ruled safe at first and Kevin Kouzmanoff put the go-ahead tally on the board in this frustrating loss, an outing which was very much a waste of a good game (which is why I waited until morning to write this up).

Jeremy Hellickson offered another excellent start and was subsequently sent down to the minors afterward – wait for it – headed to the Single-A Charlotte Stone Crabs. WHAT?! More on that later. Friday night Hellboy didn’t look as tight as his numbers say, but they were still pretty damn good numbers: six and a third innings pitched, 3 runs on seven hits, one walk and seven strikeouts. Going into the bottom of the eighth, the Rays held a lead but obviously surrendered it, giving the young pitcher a no-decision; normally I hate no-decisions but in this case I’m glad the kid wasn’t tarnished with a loss when he pitched to win.

Tampa Bay started off hot, putting up two runs in the first inning. With one out, Zobrist reached on an error by second baseman Steven Tolleson and moved to second base on an error by pitcher Vin Mazzaro. Carl Crawford's infield single moved Big Ben to third and CC stole second to put two men in scoring position. Carlos Pena walked after Evan Longoria’s pop out to the shortstop Pennington, loading the bases. With two men in scoring position, Matt Joyce decided he wanted to score two runs and did so with a single to center field. Pena moved to second but was stranded by a Willy Aybar strikeout (say it aint so).

A lead-off walk by B.J. Upton followed by a double from Jason Bartlett put two men in scoring position to open the second inning. Both men advanced on John Jaso’s sacrifice fly, scoring Upton and putting Bartlett on third with one out. He would stay there, another wasted opportunity thanks to a Zobrist fly out to center and Crawford popping out to the second baseman.

Oakland got aboard in the bottom of the third, with Pennington and Coco Crisp scoring on a Daric Barton base hit after a double steal put both men in scoring position. The A-holes (yeah, that’s childish; you were expecting something else? I’m surprised it took me this long)… Anyway, the A’s tied it up in the bottom of the sixth with a lead-off home run by Jack Cust. Hellickson, with his usual poise, responded by striking out the next two batters with a nasty change up and curveball as hit put-out pitches.

Ben Zobrist put another tally on the slate for Tampa Bay in the top of the seventh, homering off of reliever Jerry Blevins. Oakland came back in the aforementioned bottom of the eighth, with a lead-off walk issued by reliever Joaquin Benoit to Cust. Former-Ray Gabe Gross came on to run and score the tying run on a Davis sac fly after moving to third on a single by Kouzmanoff. A walk to Mark Ellis preceded the Zobrist error and that was frickin’ it (by the way, who's the homer-tool announcer for Oakland? He sucks). B.J. Upton was called out in the top of the ninth inning on the second of two blown calls at first base. Barton’s for was clearly off the bag and this call may, MAY have changed the game.

But a team has to overcome bad officiating. John Hirschbeck, the 1B umpire, may have sucked the big one and mucked up two calls by a mile, one that helped decide the game, but Blue didn’t leave men in scoring position. Likewise, he didn’t make that error at second base that allowed the go-ahead run to score. This was the Tampa Bay Rays' game to win and after the opening frame and great starting pitching, I don’t know how they didn’t get it done. Instead of ruminating further on the matter, I went to bed and dreams didn’t yield any greater point of view.

So Hellickson has been sent down to Port Charlotte. Why oh why? He is being demoted in order to get used to working out of the bullpen and needs to make room for the returning Wade Davis and Jeff Niemann. Personally I don’t’ see why he can’t make that transition here; I’m tempted to do a Tonya Harding on certain Rays relievers in order to make room for him (no, not really… or am I?). Anyway, he’s still a perfect 3-0 so I guess I’ll cling to that.

This really was a poorly-timed loss. Boston and New York had their respective asses handed to them Friday, the Yankees in a 6-0 shutout from Seattle and the Red Sox in the form of a 16-2 beatdown by Toronto. Missed opportunity, but isn’t that the hallmark of a Rays loss? It’s usually because of missed opportunities that they lose close games like this (cough, RISP). Anyway, Saturday night David Price (15-5, 2.85 ERA) gets the start against Brett Anderson (3-4, 2.89). It’s a 9:05 p.m. start; personally, I don’t see why they couldn’t make it a 4:05 start on the Left Coast, giving us Eastern Time Zone folk a 7 o’clock game, but I suspect it’s a vast conspiracy to annoy me and you all are unfortunately caught in the middle of it. For that, I apologize.

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