If I did not have a calendar to look at tonight, I would have thought tonight’s game was the 1st game of the ALCS. The phrases sellout crowd and Rays home game are rarely used for a regular season game, but they were tonight on a dreaded Friday night tilt against the evil empire. Most Rays fans know that the club has lost eleven straight Friday night contests and were just 3-13 on Friday nights coming into tonight. After Nick Swisher took a fastball into the right field seats early in the first inning, I could not have been the only one to think it was going be a repeat of so many previous Friday nights this season but a funny thing happened on the way to another defeat – Wade Davis got good.
Davis settled down to strike out three batters in the first inning and then arguably put together his best start of the 2010 season. He settled down to give up just one more hit while walking three and striking out three across the next six innings. I have been admittedly harsh on Davis this season as he struggled through most of this summer with his command and the long ball but tonight he held the best offense in baseball in check nearly all night long on115 pitches, 68 of which he threw for strikes. Davis has now worked into the seventh inning in four consecutive starts and has given up just three home runs in his last 28.1 IP. Davis mixed up his pitches throwing 85 fastballs and 29 breaking balls getting eight swinging strikes in all tonight. In fact, Swisher’s home run was truly the only hard hit ball of the night. In all, that makes Wade Davis 4-0 in the month of July and he has seen his ERA drop from 4.86 to 4.21 and suddenly the cries for Jeremy Hellickson have become a lot quieter.
After Davis gave way to the bullpen, Joaquin Benoit and Rafael Soriano worked their magic to hold keep the Yankees from getting on base and the victory was wrapped up with a terrific defensive play from Carlos Pena than Adam Dunn might make five out of one hundred times. Throughout the day today, Pena versus Dunn was debated on air, on Twitter, and over at DRaysBay but I think that final play of the game sums up my stance on the situation in one play. Simply put – the Rays are a better team defense when Pena is on the field and the fact that Dunn came out to say he would DH for the rest of this season is a good sign.
Offensively, the Rays were very much held in check by Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain – two pitchers that entered this game struggling mightily. Hughes rediscovered the mix of stuff that had him as one of the better pitchers in the league through the first two months of the season and Chamberlain was extremely dominating in two innings of relief. I mentioned that Davis’ night would have been perfect if not for one ill-placed pitch in the first inning; the same could be said for Hughes. I own Hughes in my expert fantasy league so I watch a lot of his starts and tonight he was perfect except for one ill-placed pitch to Matt Joyce that he deposited over the right-field fence to account for the entire offensive effort for the Rays this evening and that home run was the first one Hughes had surrendered on the road all season. Outside of that home run, the Rays scratched out three singles and stolen base by B.J. Upton while striking out nine times. If the lineup’s goal was to prove to ownership and management (both of which were in attendance) that they need another bat in the lineup for the stretch run, they did an excellent job of proving their point. It was learned during the game that the Yankees have acquired both Lance Berkman and Austin Kearns in deals this evening while giving up nothing from their active roster to help beef up an already loaded offense. It will be interesting to see how, or rather if, the Rays react in kind tomorrow.
Principal Owner Stu Sternberg was interviewed during the game tonight by Todd Kalas and Sternberg said he would be very surprised if the club did not have one or two new uniforms on the roster tomorrow. Couple that statement with the one he made a few weeks ago about this being a special year and that more money could be spent and you can hold out hope that Adam Dunn could be one of those guys or someone such as Luke Scott, Josh Willingham, as well as a sorely-needed left-handed reliever to give Choate aid in the later innings. You have to figure tomorrow comes down Adam Dunn and secondary players and most of us will be glued to some electronic device to hear what happens before the deadline. The Yankees and Rays play at 7:10 tomorrow night and it is expected Berkman and Kearns will be in the away grays for the game but it is unknown whether the Rays will have any new faces in the dugout. In 2008 when they were in this situation, nothing was done and last season when they were in third place, they once again stood pat. Let’s hope this time, the course of action is not inaction once again.