The A.L. East isn’t boasting impressive win numbers from any of its five members like the other divisions, but that is because all the A.L. East teams have been playing each other; every single team is a threat. In a division that usually only saw action from the Boston Red Sox and the New York Yankees for numerous years, it is exciting to see that every team is now a threat. The Baltimore Orioles, Tampa Bay Rays, and the Toronto Blue Jays are also viewing the A.L. East Title this year.
Today the Rays headed up North to do battle with the power-hitting Jays. It was already in the Jays’ favor since lefty Ricky Romero was pitching (and we know how well the Rays hit off of left-handed pitchers).The game didn’t start out well when Carlos Pena singled, but got caught stretching at second; not sure why he wanted to test Jose Bautista’s arm. Bautista quickly demonstrated his power by hitting a towering homerun a few minutes later in the bottom of the 1st inning.
In the 3rd inning, J.P. Arencibia was safe at first on an error by Evan Longoria – no seriously, Longoria made an error. In Longoria’s defense, it was a hard hit ball and Arencibia would have probably been safe on first anyways; but then the game got weird. Yunel Escobar hit into what should have been a double play, but Longoria mishandled the ball so all players were safe. Yes, you read that correctly; Longoria made two back-to-back errors. The next batter, Kelly Johnson, hit into a fielder’s choice, making the first out (and what should have been the final out). To the horror of everyone, Bautista was up at bat and hit a sac fly, scoring Arencibia. Adam Lind, another power hitter, showed why he should also be feared by hitting a 2-run homer. The Jays now led 4-0; 3 runs were unearned.
Now the Rays’ offense wasn’t doing much; there were a few walks and hits, but no threats. In my opinion, Ricky Romero is a good pitcher BUT he was not throwing 100 fast ball strikes. In fact, many Rays were swinging at balls. The Rays finally scored a run in the 6th after Reid Brignac singled, scoring Matt Joyce and then Chris Gimenez singled, scoring Sean Rodriquez. Now the inning turned sour after Desmond Jennings bunted, getting out at first base. Jennings had a good weekend so I was surprised to see him bunt after Romero showed signs of falling apart. It was probably to prevent a double-play, but Jennings is quick enough to prevent double-play balls so not sure why he had to bunt there. Carlos Pena ended the inning by striking out. The Rays should have scored more runs in that inning since who knows when the Rays would have a chance like that to score numerous runs. In the bottom of the 6th inning, Jeff Niemann walked Bautista, causing Joe Maddon to make a call to the bullpen. J.P. Howell pitched, but after throwing a wild pitch and walking the batter, Brandon Gomes was called in to get the job done. Gomes got the Edwin Encarnacion out, but Eric Thames reached first and Bautista scored due to a throwing error by Longoria. Longoria made 3 errors tonight, which led to 4 runs scored by the Jays.
In the 7th inning, Matt Joyce hit a homerun, but that would be it for the Rays. The Jays scored another run in the 7th. In the 8th, Pena reached base by bunting, then Luke Scott walked. So the Rays had 2 on, 1 out with Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce coming to the plate. This would be the last Rays’ threat and it would end with both batters striking out. In the 8th, Brett Lawrie hit a homerun off of Burke Badenhop. Jays now led 7-3.
Player of the Game: The Texas Rangers for beating the Boston Red Sox 18-3. The Red Sox had recently beaten the Rays badly and had gained ground in the A.L. East; now they are the only team the Ray are ahead of. The Rangers had six homeruns in the game; 3 of those were in the 8th inning.
What I Liked:
- Matt Joyce: Joyce hit a homerun, scoring run #3 today. He went 2-for-4 today (against a lefty), so its good seeing him making hits. Joyce had an amazing beginning 2011 season and it would be lovely if he could come through again this year with the big hits.
- Reid Brignac: Brignac didn’t do much hitting last year and hasn’t been batting too much this year, so it was very important for Brignac to gain self-confidence by having important hits. Today, he scored the first RBI and kept the 5th inning going. He went 1-2 today.
- Pitchers: Yes, the pitchers weren’t pitching like Justin Verlander, but there were some things I liked. Jeff Niemann had some good pitching combinations and only made two really bad pitches; the pitches just happened to be to power hitters Bautista and Lind. The problem was the high pitch count; though he had to make extra throws due to Longoria’s errors. Brandon Gomes, who was just called up yesterday, made important throws to kill a Jays’ threat (though an error caused by Longoria led to a run being scored).
- Carlos Pena: Carlos Pena went 3-for-4 and is batting .390 so far this season. He got 2 hits by bunting against the shift twice tonight.
What I didn’t like:
- Errors: Evan Longoria made 3 errors in tonight’s game, which led to 4 of the Jays runs (officially it was 2 un-earned runs, but I think the other two were scored also due to errors). Longoria is a gold-glove, so it is very surprising to see him commit so many errors tonight. Longoria also went 1-for-4; as one announcer said, he’s “playing angry.” Longoria was trying too hard to hit a homerun, which led to him striking out. I’ll be surprised if Longoria scored another error this year; it is no argument, he’s the best 3rd baseman in the A.L.
- Pitching: Jeff Niemann’s bad pitches ended up resulting in homeruns. Brandon Gomes looked a little shaky; J.P. Howell walked and had a wild pitch. Jake McGee allowed run #6 and Burke Bandenhop allowed run #7. The Rays have allowed 29 runs in 7th inning, the most in MLB.
- Lack of runs…again. The Rays only scored 3 runs, which is not much considered that the Blue Jays are known for hitting homeruns. The Rays are not going to win games by scoring three runs; just tonight the Rangers scored 18, the Red Sox scored 3, the Orioles scored 3, and the Yankees scored 8. If the Rays want to beat teams, they need to score more than 3 runs. Also, the Rays have been outscored 18-0 in the 8th inning; in the old days, that was the only inning they would score in. All Rays’ fans know that the Rays don’t start hitting until the 7th inning, but this hasn’t happened this year. Today, the Rays went 2-for-10 with RISP.
I predict that the Rays will win tomorrow; Evan Longoria and David Price will come through.