Rays win 7-4, take series 3-1 from Twins

Rays starter James Shields, who picked up his 50th career win on the day, ran into a rough patch in the bottom of the seventh. He allowed Justin Morneau and Jason Kubel aboard with a single and a walk before Michael Cuddyer’s broken-bat base hit loaded the bases. Jim Thome then doubled, scoring Morneau and Kubel and bringing Grant Balfour in to pitch for the out-matched Shields. Delmon Young scored Cuddyer on his single before a fly out and two groundouts brought the frame to a close. Jimmy had pitched a good game up until that point but I think he was out way to long while the Rays were on offense. I charge those three runs to Joe Maddon on the bench, because it was quickly clear Shields had sat on the shelf a bit too long while the Rays ran up a long offensive tab. Merlot Joe takes the lumps for that 3-shot with the managerial miscue, allowing a hungry Twins team to take advantage.

Longoria showed his all-star worth in the batter’s box, having already earned his place in the fans’ hearts. The face of the Rays was a home run shy of hitting for the cycle and had three RBIs to go with his three hits. He had this to say to Todd Kalas after the game about his single in the seventh, which scored the eventual game-winning run:[image-1]

“[Blackburn] had success with the two-seamer down and in so that’s kind of what I was looking for. I figured he was going to try to get a ground ball and that was the pitch he was going to use. I think he just made a mistake; he left the ball over the middle of the plate and it kind of flattened out on him. When you have a plan and you execute the plan it feels really good. I was trying to hit a groundball up the middle and that’s what happened.”

Really, you can't complain about anyone's performance in this great game for baseball fans, less so for those who live in Minneapolis or St. Paul. Rodriguez also gave a standout performance, with a hot bat and scorching defense all throughout this road trip. Crawford had an unusually quiet day at the plate, held hit-less on the day with his walk and run scored, but let’s be honest, the guy’s a horse – a f***ing talented horse at that – he deserves a day off from being Superman with a bat. Besides that, he made a wicked catch in shallow left on Joe Mauer’s almost-certain base hit.[image-2]

Crawford and Longoria – the Rays’ 2010 starting all-stars – talked about the upcoming Midsummer Classic in Anaheim in a pre-game segment with Sun Sports’ Todd Kalas.

“Every all-star game is a treat to be a part of but to be a part of this one, you know, going into the year, was a little bit more important, going back home, my family and friends,” said Longoria, who grew up about a 20-minute drive away from Anaheim in Downey, Calif. “It’s a little different feeling when you go home to play in an all-star game, so I’m really excited.”

The boys then traded compliments:

“C.C. is definitely the most electrifying player that I’ve ever played with and watched,” Longoria said. “He can really do it all; he can hit for power, he can really run and it’s just a pleasure to watch him play every day.”

“You know Longo, he had an old soul coming up… he acted like a veteran, not in a bad way, from day one and I really appreciated that about him,” Crawford said about the American League’s starting 3B. “It’s just refreshing to see a young guy carry himself the way Longo does.”

The Red Sox are coming to town

[image-3]Red stockings aren’t exactly hung by the chimney with care, but I hope this Rays team can make it Christmas in July as the battered Boston boys limp to the Trop. They are without 2B Dustin Pedroia and C Jason Varitek due to broken feet and C Victor Martinez with a broken thumb. Pitchers Josh Beckett, Clay Buchholz, and Manny Delcarmen are also laid up, in addition to CF Jacoby Ellsbury, RF Jeremy Hermida, 3B Mike Lowell, and SS Jed Lowrie with maladies ranging from back spasms, broken ribs and mononucleosis. With as hot as the Rays must be after this 4-2 road trip, I think it should be a great three-game set in the coming week.

It was another game decided by an offensive explosion – this one lacking the come-from-behind heroics – as the Tampa Bay Rays lead the Minnesota Twins for most of the game and held on to win 7-4, taking three out of four games in the series. The Rays started chipping away early, with Sean Rodriguez scoring on Evan Longoria’s triple in the first inning and Rodriguez shooting a home run on the first pitch of the third. The Twins scored in the bottom of the first and the 2-1 margin held until the seventh inning with an offensive stalemate in place.

At that point, the Rays put out a burst of power, sending all nine men to the plate. Carlos Pena and B.J. Upton singled to open it up and Jason Bartlett reached on a bunt attempt; Twins starting pitcher Nick Blackburn was charged with a with a throwing error and Pena scored from second. Sean Rodriguez –3-for-5 on the day – grounded out to the Twins shortstop before Carl Crawford was intentionally walked, bringing the all-star 3B Longoria to the plate. Longo’s single up the middle scored Upton and Bartlett and chased Blackburn from the game. After Willy Aybar struck out, Gabe Kapler doubled on a pinch-hit in place of Matt Joyce, scoring Crawford and Longoria.

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