I listened to half of the game driving over from Orlando to visit my parents in Dunedin and watched the other half on the television with my dad and my brother – and both parts sucked. The Rays were gifted a run when Jon Lester threw his second and third wild pitches of the season on back to back pitches and that is all they were able to scratch across on the night. JB Long of BHSN.com pointed out tonight that the Rays had a .200 winning percentage on Friday nights coming into tonight and a .691 winning percentage on any other night of the week. If that was not bad enough, the first team to score in the last 17 games between these two teams went on to win the game. I could have saved myself a lot of angst had I just shut the game off once Victor Martinez hit his first home run – the one he didn’t stand there and admire before trotting around the bases – but I held onto the last ball, I mean strike call of the night. There were few positives to take away from this game and most of them came in the ninth inning when Dan Johnson and John Jaso had two terrific at bats against Papelbon but unfortunately, Gary Darling had to give us one more crappy call to end the night on a sour note. Simply put, Darling strike zone was abysmal tonight but it is not the reason the Rays lost the game. Here are some reasons why the Rays lost tonight:
- Carl Crawford sat out with a stomach flu. It should not have mattered, but the offense struggles enough vs lefties and going from Crawford to Joyce against a lefty is like going from Salma Hayek to Thelma from Scooby Doo.
- Evan Longoria was awful. 0 for 4 with a hat trick and a GIDP. Lesser players have been loudly booed for such performances but to make matters worse, Longoria’s first three failures came with runners in scoring position.
- Ben Zobrist continues to be awful. He too was 0 for 4 with a hat trick and he is now hitting .209/.348/.282 since the end of May. A walk is the only way he is getting on base these days but he is hitting sixth? I’m sorry, but he needs to hit leadoff or ninth and nowhere else until he finds anything resembling his power stroke from 2008 and 2009. He has just eleven extra base hits in that time frame which is two less than what B.J. Upton has in August.
- 1 for 10 with runners in scoring position and 14 strikeouts on the night. It is bad enough when you fail to drive a runner in but it is worse when you fail to move them over because you cannot make any contact. The 4-5-6 hitters tonight went 0 for 10 with 8 strikeouts.
None of this should take away from the very good pitching performance by Jon Lester. Lester was the better pitcher on the night despite the five walks as he demonstrated what effective wildness looked like tonight. He gave up just two hits as he and David Price both through 106 pitches through seven innings tonight but it was Price who gave up ten base hits which included the two home runs by the red hot Victor Martinez.
The Red Sox absolutely had to have this game tonight and they got it. It is up to the Rays to respond in kind tomorrow night because the last thing they want to do right now is give that team and its fanbase momentum. For the most part tonight, the offense did about as poorly as I’ve seem them do since being dominated by Brandon Morrow earlier this month and they bounced back rather well from that ass-kicking. Let’s hope they do the same the rest of this weekend. The one positive tonight – A.J. Burnett sabotaged any chance the Yankees had of being alone in first place by being A.J. Burnett once again.