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Thursday, June 2, 2011

Observations from the Trop

Last Saturday I made my way down to Tampa to meet up with my family for the long weekend. While there we all went to the Rays game versus the Indians.  The game failed to reach the level of excitement I anticipated beforehand (though Avril Lavigne did her best to draw attention to the post-game activities). I talked up James Shields all morning about how he was the AL Cy Young frontrunner only to see him give up two runs in the first where he was actually hit pretty hard. The Indians piled on late in the game and held on for a 7-3 win. Below are some notes I took during the game:

Pre Game
  • Avril Lavigne throws out the first pitch. Not only is she tiny (Yahoo! says she's between 5'2" and 5'3" probably 100lbs soaking wet) but she can't throw. Standing a good ten feet in front of the mound she one hops the throw to the catcher at home plate.
  • Carlos Carrasco is warming up in the bullpen for Cleveland. Looks like he's throwing hard.
  • Evan Longoria is batting leadoff for the first time in his career. 
  • I'm excited Grady Sizemore is back in the lineup (though he's just DHing) after missing time with a knee injury. He's an exciting player when healthy
Top of the 1st
  • Shields gives up a hard hit single and a triple to the first two batters but does something I've never seen live before when he picks Asdrubal Cabrera off third base. The play was obviously planned as Longoria sprinted from his spot deep on the dirt to the bag to get Cabrera.
  • The next two batters single but Shields gets out of the inning when the Indians fly out to right on a hit and run play resulting in a double play.
Bottom of the 1st
  • Evan Longoria singles in his first career at-bat as a leadoff hitter. Nice.
Top 2
  • Casey Kotchman shows how he's managed to stick around in the bigs with a nice leaping play at first to rob Sizemore of a double
  • Matt LaPorta absolutely crushes one to right for an opposite field-line drive homer. Shields strikes out two but has already given up three runs and five hits.
Top 3
  • Shields appears to be making adjustments and now seems unwilling to give in. Makes it out of the inning without allowing a run but still walked two. 
Bottom 3
  • Longoria homers to dead center. I guess he likes this leadoff spot (even though he didn't lead off this inning).
  • Johnny Damon doubles into the right field corner. The guy can still pull the ball down the line. Three years ago he'd be standing on third.
  • Choo does a so-so job digging it out of the corner but shows off his strong arm by throwing a laser to the second baseman.
Bottom 4
  • Matt Joyce gets a hit to raise his AL leading average to .358. 
  • Kotchman - who also is miraculously hitting over .330 - hits a bleeder through the infield which advances Joyce to third.
  • Sean Rodriguez beatifully bunts down the first base line on a suicide squeeze. The official scorer rules it a hit which I think is a mistake. If Carrasco had thrown to first instead of home he would have gotten an out. Instead it's first and second for Tampa though they won't score again this inning.
Top 5
  • Shields has officially settled in. Whatever plagued him the first two innings has been remedied.  He now has eight strikeouts through five innings after striking out 2 in the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th.
Top 6
  • Creighton takes over scorekeeping duties as I pick at a poorly prepared Papa John's pizza. I think this will be the last pizza I grab at the Trop. It's hot dogs or Outback from here on out.
  • After a few unsuccessful attempts, a wave breaks out in the lower section. I hate the wave. I hate it even more than this pizza.
  • Creighton comments that Carlos Santana has a cool name.
Bottom 6
  • BJ Upton is completely lost. He's struck out twice and now grounded out. When he's on he's a superstar but when he's not he looks very, very bad.
  • Carlos Carrasco has been very effective this evening. The Rays go down 1-2-3 in the sixth without hitting the ball out of the infield.
  • Asdrubal Cabrera is a slick shortstop. He gets to almost everything and looks smooth. I can see why Cleveland was so high on him a couple of years ago.
  • Carrasco final line is 6 innings, 7 hits, 2 runs, no walks, and four strikeouts.
Top 7
  • Shields gets the Indians to go down 1-2-3 in the seventh. You really have to give it to him for keeping his team in the game after having a rough start.
  • Shields' final line is 7-7-3-3-8. A strong performance.
Bottom 7
  • With speedy Sam Fuld on second, Johnny Damon steps up to try and get a big hit. After working a 2-2 count with several foul balls, Tony Sipp throws one up and in which pushes Damon off the plate. Unfortunately in the process of moving out of the way Damon's bat crossed home plate for a swinging strike. Damon argues and a chorus of boos erupt from the Tampa fans. Good to see they're still awake.
Top 8
  • JP Howell makes another appearance. Howell missed all of 2010 and early parts of 2011 due to arm problems and still doesn't seem to be right. The Indians must think it's batting practice because they're getting some good swings.
  • After a Michael Brantley single, Asdrubal Cabrera hits a hard sinking liner to second. Zobrist doesn't get in front of it and boots it badly for an error. Wait, now it's a hit. Bad call.
  • Choo gets hit by a pitch to load the bases causing the Rays to go into an interesting defensive alignment with Travis Buck up. See the image below:
  • Howell gets lifted after Buck singles and Kyle Farnsworth comes in to finish the inning. The damage has been done though with the Indians plating four more runners.
  • Speaking of Farnsworth, the former Cub is having a career year with that 1.50 ERA he's sporting.
Bottom 8
  • Rays go weakly in the eighth as Tony Sipp mows them down in order.
Bottom 9
  • Casey Kotchman of all people leads off the inning with a double off Rafael Perez. Perez has never really been the same after Cleveland abused him during their 2007 post-season run.
  • Sean Rodriguez singles to put runners on the corners.
  • After Sam Fuld and John Jaso each hit infield pop-ups, Longoria walks to load the bases second. 
  • Chris Perez is called in because it's a "save situation". What a bunch of baloney. Yes, the bases are loaded but there's two outs and the batter is not the tying run. Leave him out there to finish the game!
  • Johnny Damon works a tough at bat and hits a hot shot down the line that LaPorta gets in front of but can't handle. Kotchman scores and Damon is safe on the error.
  • Evan Longoria evidently thought Rodriguez was going to score too because he sprints down to third base only to find...Rodriguez. Rodriguez, now in a run-down between third and home, does a great job of making the Cleveland infielders work even diving under a tag at one point to keep the pickle alive. Alas, he is tagged out and the game ends. Longoria, who had the offensive heroics to keep the team in the game early, makes the bonehead baserunning move late to end the game.
Final Thoughts
The Rays offense just never got going today while the Indians took advantage of a shaky James Shields early on. Though the Rays had the bases loaded in the 9th it's unlikely they would have won even without the baserunning blunder since they were already down to their last out. I love going to games and it's always a plus when you go with people you like. Thanks Mom!
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