I wish to thank the two sherpas that were needed to get to me to my seat in 307 Row CCCCCCC for the game yesterday so I could witness the game yesterday in person. The only way I could have been any higher was to get a seat on an actual catwalk.
The contest yesterday was rather painful to watch from a Rays fan’s perspective. The first inning saw the Rays both load the bases and strike out the side on just 23 pitches – impressive when you consider that it takes at least 21 pitches to pull off that feat. The inning could have gone on longer if Carlos Pena would have method acted his way on base as Victor Martinez and Derek Jeter have done this season (when Pena actually was hit by the ball) but he did not and Welke blew the call.
Welke blowing a call is not as frustrating as his crappy strike zone yesterday (for both sides). The amount of “strikes” he called on the inside corner was only less appalling than the strikes he ignored in the lower half of the strike zone.
David Price has nasty stuff but it is at its best when he’s able to work down in the zone – a call he just was not going to get yesterday. Then again, when Bengie Molina and his .320 slugging percentage go 3-4 against you and take you out of the yard, it is not going to be your day no matter what strike zone the umpire gives you.
Offensively, Ben Zobrist was the only highlight of the game as he found his power stroke to hit a double deep into the gap and account for the Rays’ only run on the day with an opposite field home run off Cliff Lee. That was just the fifth and sixth extra base hit the Rays have hit off Lee in 30.2 innings this season and the first home run. The offense struck out 13 times in all with Carlos Pena collecting yet another hat trick and Upton and Baldelli striking out twice. The most frustrating part for me in those situations is the fans let Pena and Baldelli off the hook for a collection of overmatched swings and yet booed Upton when he struck out in the 8th inning. Stay classy, Tampa Bay.
I do not question a lot of what Joe Maddon does because he has proven time and time again he is smarter than me and has the data to back up his decisions, but hitting Rocco and Pena back to back in the lineup yesterday is a gigantic head-scratcher for me. I don’t see how Pena is even in the lineup yesterday given his abysmal work over the last six to seven weeks and Baldelli has done very little to justify a post-season roster spot over Willy Aybar except showing the ability to catch what is hit right at him. I know Baldelli is a great feel-good story but he and Pena together hitting fifth and sixth in a lineup is a design flaw akin to the Imperial Death Star’s exposed shaft and Cliff Lee sunk a lot of proton torpedoes in that flaw yesterday as that duo went 0-6 with five strikeouts.
Today’s goal is simple – win because only the 2001 Yankees and 2003 Red Sox have overcome a 0-2 LDS deficit. 12 of 33 teams have lost Game 1 at home but have gone on to win the series so there is a 27% chance the club can pull this off and the last team to do that was the Angels in 2005 against the Yankees. You will recall that the Rays lost the first game of the ALCS being shut out by the Red Sox but went onto win that seven game series; a shorter series is the problem here. If you want to feel better about James Shields, read FreeZorilla’s piece over at DRaysBay. I am still behind the decision to use him today and I really want to see him succeed in the face of all of the domestic and national criticism of the move.
Anthony Castrovince of mlb.com has a silver lining for Rays fans: Of the 30 Division Series rounds since 1995, the team that lost Game 1 when onto win the series 14 times. Seven of those teams went on to advance to the World Series and three of them (96 and 00 Yankees, 02 Angels), won it all.
Make sure you tune into ESPN 1040 from 11 to 1 today for all of your pre-game coverage as I am back on with the Fabulous Sports Babe broadcasting live from the back porch at Ferg’s.