Devil Rays 1, Red Sox 0.
Reports that Scott Kazmir’s had relinquished the title of Rays’ Ace were apparently premature.
If you missed last night’s Devil Rays game, you missed one of the best games of the season and more importantly you missed a defining moment in the young career of the Rays young hurler, Scott Kazmir.
Last night, Kazmir had 96 pitches after 6 innings, yet Maddon let Kid K go out to the mound to start the 7th inning, protecting a 1-0 lead. We were surprised by the move considering Maddon had kept a tight leash on Kazmir recently. In five of his previous 10 starts, Joe Maddon pulled Scott Kazmir before he even reached 100 pitches, throwing more than 110 only once. Also, Kaz needed 21 pitches to get through the 6th inning including 9 before he finally got Mike Lowell on strikes to end the frame.
With the elevated pitch count and the close lead against a good ballclub, we assumed that Kazmir would be pulled as soon as he allowed a baserunner. Bobby Kielty led off the 7th with a hard line drive to left field. The ball was hit so hard, that Kielty was held to a single despite hitting the ball off the monster. Still, Maddon let Kazmir stay in the game.
Kazmir then made Kevin Youkilis look bad striking him out on three straight pitches. Jason Varitek followed with an 8-pitch at bat that resulted in a walk, including 3-2 pitch that was a foot outside.
At this point it appeared as though Kaz was starting to labor. He had thrown 111 pitches and Joe Maddon came out to the mound. Usually a visit by the manager means the pitcher is done, but Maddon once again let Kid K stay in the game. With the tying run on second and the go-ahead run on first, Kazmir responded by getting Jacoby Ellsbury out on strikes, for his 10th K of the game. Finally, Kazmir got Alex Cora out on a ground ball to third base to get out of the inning.
118 pitches. After Maddon visited the mound, Kaz threw 7 more pitches. All 7 were fastballs. pitch 117 hit 96 mph.
Yes it was Ellsbury and Cora and not Manny and Big Papi, but Kazmir took the ball with the game on the line and rose to the occasion. And with those 7 pitches we saw Kid K grow up right before our eyes.
That 7th inning was as big an inning we have ever seen by a Devil Rays pitcher. It was as excited as we have been during a game all season long. Waking up neighbors. Kissing Dogs. Shots of tequilla, and calling every Red Sox fan we know. We even called a couple of Mets fans, because with that final groundball to third base, the fateful sound of thousands of Mets fans screaming Dan Duquette’s name in pain, could be heard all the way from Queens.
DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA…
- The Devil Rays are now only 1 game behind the Orioles for 4th place in the AL East. They now have the same record as the Chicago White Sox and the Florida Marlins. Even more amazing is that the Rays are now within 4.5 games or fewer of NINE different teams. At one point this season it appeared as though the Rays were well on their way to the #1 pick in the draft again next season. Now they have an outside chance to fall all the way to #10.
- The Rays are 61-83 with 18 games remaining.
- They need to finish 2-16 to avoid 100 losses
- 10-8 would give the Rays the most wins in franchise history
- 12-6 and the Rays would avoid 90 losses.
- Yesterday we learned that an equipment bag was included on the Rays charter for Rocco Baldell, although he was not with the team. Today we learn that Rocco could rejoin the team tonight…or tomorrow…or Friday in Seattle…or Saturday…or possibly Sunday. Well, that clears things up. And if he returns, chances are he will not be in the lineup. According to Joe Maddon, Rocco is rejoining the team in his new capacity as a member of the training staff. Well if there was any player that knows his way around the trainer’s room, it’s Rocco. [TBO]
Manager Joe Maddon said Baldelli, who has been out since May 16 with a bad left hamstring, is expected to join the team either the next two days in Boston or in Seattle over the weekend…”I just would like to have him here, even if it’s just taping ankles,” Maddon said. “I just want him here to be part of the group.”
- If the Devil Rays started playing better, would anyone notice? YES! Nothing get past John Donovan of SI.com who moved the Rays up from #30 to #27 in this weeks power rankings, ahead of the White Sox, the Marlins and Orioles. [SI]
An extension for skipper Joe Maddon, 12 wins in their past 16 games, five straight series wins … “Right now, it looks like it’s the start of something,” Carl Crawford told the St. Pete Times.
- Dioner Navarro was limited to batting right-handed last night due to a sore wrist. [TBO]