Tampa Bay gets the best of Baltimore 4-1

[image-1]The Rays put up two in the top of the third inning; Reid Brignac led off with a base hit and moved to second on a ground out by John Jaso. Ben Zobrist flied to center and it looked like another man stranded in scoring position. Carl Crawford decided he wasn’t going to let that happen. Having scalded a two-out triple in the first inning, CC settled for a base hit to score Brignac. Evan Longoria must have figured that clutch hit deserved some appreciation; Longo doubled, scoring Crawford from first.

Tampa Bay put up a two-spot in the next frame as well, with Matt Joyce leading off with a walk. A Dan Johnson strikeout later, B.J. Upton singled to move Joyce to second base. Brignac then picked up an RBI with a base hit, scoring Joyce; Upton moved to third and Brignac went to second on the throw to the plate trying to get Joyce. Jaso walked to load the bases and Ben Zobrist once again flied out, this time allowing Upton to tag at third and score on the sac fly.

Baltimore got one back in the bottom of the fourth. Former Devil Ray Ty Wigginton hit a one-out double and moved to third base on a wild pitch from the fiery Garza (see what I did there?). After colossal pain-in-the-ass Luke Scott walked, Felix Pie drove Wigginton home with a sac fly to center field.

The Rays had a chance at extending their lead in the top of the fifth. Leading off, Longoria was hit by a pitch. With one out, he moved to third on Joyce’s base hit. However, Johnson lined out to first, with Wigginton tagging the base and getting Joyce on the unassisted double play.

With two outs in the sixth inning and two men walked on base, Garza was relieved in favor of Chad Qualls. None too pleased about it, Garza stormed off the mound, perhaps to his detriment, as he got what looked like a stern talking to from the disrespected Rays manager, Joe Maddon. Qualls closed the inning by getting Matt Wieters to ground out to second base.

That would do it on scoring. Garza picked up his 14th win of the year, giving the Rays a rare win on a Friday night. He allowed the single run on five hits, walking three men and striking out three. Qualls, Randy Choate and Joaquin Benoit all looked great in relief. Rafael Soriano then came on in the bottom of the ninth and picked up his 41st save of the year. Garza may not have liked being pulled but he has to like the performance of the guys who took over.

This win also saw Joe Maddon climb to .500 as the Rays' manager. Maddon, who recently received an honorary doctorate from Lafayette, is now 391-391 with TB. Here's hoping Merlot Joe can end this season over .500 and with a World Series ring on his knuckles.

A great start to the road trip. The win puts TB a game and a half behind New York in the A.L. East race. While I prefer not to think about it this way, the closest competitor for the wildcard spot is seven games back according to the standings – which need to be updated – on MLB.com. The Rays have two more in Baltimore before trekking to Beantown for a 3-game series wit’ dem Bahstahn Rehd Sahks.

[image-2]You’ll have to look elsewhere for comments on Saturday’s game; I have a date with a grill, some ribs, a ton a of beer and a football game. Oh yes, opening night for USF football. Come out and show your support.

The baseball gods have apparently listened to my prayers about more offense earlier in the game by the Tampa Bay Rays. They managed to score four runs by the end of the fourth inning, in contrast to the relatively slow starts they’ve had in close games recently. It allowed me to enjoy relatively low blood pressure for most of the game, for which I am most grateful.

Speaking of intensity, Matt Garza got the start for TB. Reflecting on his last performance in Oriole Park at Camden Yards, in which he yielded seven runs on ten hits – including three consecutive home runs to lead off the second inning, Garza said he was going to “go in there, hair on fire like I have been and go after them and say, 'Hey, you got me the first time, well I'm going to shove it down your throat this time.”

Question: how can you not be inspired by that? Another question: is the hair on fire thing a metaphor or did he stock up on Aqua Net the night before? (I realize it’s a metaphor, it’s just such an interesting one that I have to be snarky to fully appreciate it).

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