Rays outlast Marlins in Miami marathon, win 9-8 in 11 innings

[image-1]In the end, the game came down to roster depth. Both managers were given an Old Mother Hubbard night, exhausting their respective bullpens. The Rays’ Joe Maddon elected to give starter Shields an inning of work before putting in reliever Lance Cormier, who screwed the proverbial pooch in the 11th inning, allowing two singles, a walk, and a double after a Reid Brignac error to turn a 9-5 sure-win into a 9-8 sphincter-clencher. He brought Mike Stanton, Ronny Paulino, and Wes Helms around to score. But Maddon still had hero-of-the-day Andy Sonnanstine in the cupboard. An evening after throwing a great game in relief of the floundering Matt Garza, Sonny struck out Brian Barden and Anibel Sanchez before Ben Zobrist made a gorgeous over-the-shoulder catch on a long fly by Dan Uggla to end the game.

The evening started as a pitching duel between towering righties Jeff Niemann and Chris Volstad. Niemann had a great outing, giving up two runs on three hits through six innings. He really only threw two bad pitches, solo home runs to both Coghlan and Hanley Ramirez. The Rays looked like a different a team Saturday night, on several levels. They didn't exactly shell the Marlins' pitching staff, but they had smarter at-bats and took better advantage of the opportunities they created than in previous games. Conversely, they committed several uncharacteristic errors that cost them what should have been an easy, regulation win. Perhaps it simply took eight innings for the elephant-call din in Miami to get to them. Whatever the case, this game has huge take-aways. This team was able to overcome their own poor performance and win in spite of themselves around hot and cold pitching from practically the entire pitching staff.

This game had too many twists to allow one to find a definitive turning point. B.J. Upton's smart at-bat in the 11th to walk in Carl Crawford definitely ranks as a game-changer. The Marlins' Jorge Sosa had as bad an evening in the top of the inning as Cormier had in the bottom, walking in Crawford and Longoria when pitching to Upton and Brignac. Scott Strickland gave up a two-run single to Jason Bartlett to bring Ben Zobrist and Upton around,  with B.J. scoring what would end up being the winning run.

[image-2]The night that saw Sonnanstine get his first career save and Shields his first relief win also bore witness to a club coming together after having fallen apart recently. That 2008 perseverance came out Saturday night and fans can only hope that spirit survives for a stretch and that this team can get back in a winning way. Rays' ace David Price takes the mound in Sunday's 1:10 p.m. game as the team attempts to split the Citrus Series with the Marlins and possibly gain some ground in the American League East race. The rival New York Yankees won in advance of Saturday's game and the Boston Red Sox came out on top in their outing as well, so Tampa's win simply allowed the to stay on pace. Tomorrow will help decide which direction this team is headed.

Wow… And I thought the vuvuzelas in World Cup soccer were annoying. Okay, I’ll be honest; I thought the idea of them was annoying. Still no World Cup for me. I actually watched a bit of the U.S. Open Saturday and still haven’t seen the 2010 soccer phenomenon. Anyway, the mini-horns that the Florida Marlins handed out for Saturday night’s game against the Tampa Bay Rays sounded like a furious swarm of mosquitoes playing over-sized kazoos while driving out of a crowded parking garage. Congratulations on having the most annoying promotion of 2010. Thankfully, it was an inter-league game and I won’t have to listen to this sh!t anymore for the rest of the year. It’s hard to believe a stadium with so few people in attendance could make so much noise. Sun Sports viewers were informed by Todd Kalas that Rays’ fans were not allowed to bring cowbells into Sun Life Stadium. Apparently only Marlins fans are allowed to bring annoying promotional items to games in Miami, giving them a strategic monopoly on irritation in their home park. They just kept blowing all night – kind of like the Marlins (ZING!) – even when their own team was in critical parts of the game. Clearly they should have been given a lesson on manners, perhaps a primer on cowbell etiquette? But I suppose when the idea behind the promotional item is to be crass and obnoxious rather than fun and engaging, etiquette and intelligent, considerate use are pretty silly things for which to wish. Anyway, there was apparently a baseball game played last night amid all of this. It was a pretty good game too, so enough bitching.

It was a weird one in south Florida Saturday night, and a long one. In a game that saw Rays’ pitcher James Shields make his first career relief appearance, the Bay-area boys beat the Marlins 9-8 in an 11-inning nail-biter. Despite the above cheap shot, the Marlins did not blow in Saturday night’s game, but the game went into extra innings courtesy of a Rays eighth-inning defensive implosion rather than exemplary play on behalf of the home team. This time of self-destruction saw Randy Choate hit Chris Coghlan with a pitch and Dan Wheeler give up two doubles to take the erstwhile 5-2 game to 5-4. Errors by Jason Bartlett and Evan Longoria allowed an extra base runner and an extra run to score; Longoria’s misplay could have been an inning-ending double play but instead it tied a game that could/should have easily been won in regulation.

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