D-Rays 5, Florida 4, 10 innings. We passed on dinner and ordered pizza so that we could watch the first game of the Rays-Marlins series. Then we said we would meet them by 10:00. We were nervous in the 6th inning with the score tied 2-2 and then something strange happened. at 8:50, with 2 outs in the bottom of the 6th and Jonny Gomes on third, Travis Lee came to the plate. We wondered aloud how many times Lee had failed to come through in this type of situation. Sure he is a great defensive first baseman, and he has saved as many as 15 errors from his fellow infielders, but he is a liability with the bat. So we looked it up. Entering the game, Lee was 0-27 with runners in scoring position. 0-27. This just in, that’s not good. But at 8:51 something strange happened. With an 0-1 count, Lee drove a basehit straight back up the middle scoring the go-ahead run. We are feeling a little better. But we weren’t too comfortable. We still had to survive our own bullpen. Travis Harper came on in the 7th and worked through it unscathed. He stayed on the 8th, giving up a leadoff single to Miguel Cabrera. That was followed by a walk to Josh Willingham. Shawn Camp relieved Harper. Next thing we know the Marlins lead 4-3. Just like that, our bullpen ripped our heart out again. It is now 9:20. How are we supposed to have fun tonight if the Rays lose this game?
Bottom of the 8th. It is 9:25. We should be there in plenty of time. The game is in St. Pete. Which means designated hitter and fewer pitching changes, and hence shorter games. 10:00 looks feasible. The Rays get two on in the bottom of the 8th. First of all, Aubrey Huff is the lead runner. We wondered aloud why Bill Evers wouldn’t use a pitch runner. When Huff got to second, we are really wondering why there isn’t more speed so the runner on second can score on a basehit. So we checked to see who was still on the Rays’ bench. Greg Norton, Josh Paul, Tomas Perez and Russell Branyan. Not exactly the ’85 Cardinals. The Rays have a lot of team speed. That’s not it. (Of course this would turn out to be a good thing later on. Maybe Evers knew what he was doing, or maybe he just got lucky. If Gathright hadn’t started, he would have been in the game as a pinchrunner) Who comes up? Travis Lee of course, who earlier had broken his 0-27 streak. We knew what was going to happen next, we just didn’t realize exactly how bad it would be. Lee went down swinging on three straight pitches. And by “swinging” we really mean “waving the bat in the general direction of where he thought the ball might be”. Quite frankly, he had a better chance of hitting manager Joe Maddon in the ass, and he was in California last night. Well, it’s 9:33. It’s starting to get close. One inning to go.
Top of the 9th. Something strange happened again. Shawn Camp looked impressive. He retired the side on 9 pitches including 2 strikeouts. Only one pitch was a ball and that one just missed on 0-2. Even better, he kept the Marlins off the board and the Rays with one and most importantly it is only 9:38. We just might make it…
Bottom of the 9th. It is 9:40. Toby Hall is up. Former Ray Joe Borowski comes on to close the game for the Marlins. This is a good situation. Hall knows Borowski. Caught him for half a season last year. Maybe he can get a basehit and start a rally. At 9:41, Hall took the first pitch over the left field wall. We are jumping. We are screaming. We are spilling beer everywhere. We are going to be late and we couldn’t be happier. Its 9:50. Borowski gives up a double to Julio Lugo. That is followed by the inexplicable unintentional intentional walk to Carl Crawford. To face Jonny Gomes? Whoever took over for the ejected Joe Girardi (good call by the ump. He missed the tag) must have a date tonight. But he must have known something as Gomes grounded out to third, and we let out a sigh of frustration. But then we are back up. We remember what Hall did. The Rays are still alive. Of course this means another inning with Tampa’s bullpen. The nail-biting gets worse.
Top of the 10th. 9:54. Yep its official. We are going to be late. OK, the phones are ringing. We explain and we promise to leave at 10:00. We have to watch the top of the 10th. We will feel better if the Rays can get through it. Bring on Tyler Walker. Quite frankly we never like a closer in a non-save situation, but in extra innings at home there won’t be a save situation, so this is as close as it gets. It just seems, that a lot of times, closers let up a little bit and thats when they get rocked pretty good. First up, Miguel Cabrera. And he almost destroyed us. He takes a ball to deep center field that Hollins pulls in at the wall. Collective sigh of relief. Walker works through the next two batters easily and its on to the bottom of the 10th. And even thanks to Walker it is only 9:59! We can watch the bottom of the 10th.
Bottom of the 10th. 10:01. Aubrey Huff leads off. The guy we wanted pulled for a pinch runner in the 8th, but then realized there were no candidates with speed. The guy who is a notoriously slow starter. The guy who hasn’t hit a home run yet and is well below the Mendoza Line. Maybe this is the break out at bat. Come on Huff. Hit a tweener. Split the outfielders and get to second. Wait for it…Wait for it…WAIT FOR IT…HUFF GOES BOOM! The Rays Index palace goes crazy! Screaming. Yelling. Hugging. Kissing. And much more spilling of beer. We are still not sure if that ball ever came down. We think Aubrey Huff will be the answer to the trivia question: Who is the only player ever to hit a ball out of the Trop? And the best thing? Rays win, they beat those damn east coast Marlins, and it is 10:02. Let’s party.