THE GOOD: Evan Longoria. The kid was the man last night going 3-6, driving in 3, including 2 on a go-ahead home run in the top of the 13th. We may have seen a different side to the Dirtbag in that 13th inning at bat. With Carlos Pena on first and no outs, the first pitch was a slider down and away. On the second pitch, Chad Gaudin quick-pitched a fastball right down the middle. Normally a pitcher would do this to keep a runner at first base, but Pena wasn’t a threat to steal. Rather, Gaudin caught Longoria napping at the plate. He wasn’t ready and ended up taking a BP fastball right down the middle. There was a clear look of frustration/disgust/anger on Dirtbag’s face. Gaudin came back with another slider down and off the plate. Longoria laid off. Now 2-1, Gaudin tried once again to go slider low and away, only he wanted to catch the corner hoping Longoria would lay off again. But Gaudin hung the slider about letter-high, on the inside half of the plate. The absolute textbook definition of a hanging slider and why we call those 400-foot strikes. Longoria turned on the hanger and hit a no-doubt-about-it shot to left that proved to be the game-winner. Was there a little extra oomph on the swing because of the quick-pitch? We like to think so…The Bullpen. Outside of the late run allowed by Troy Percival in which it looked like he let up a tad with 2 outs in the 13th, the bullpen shut down the A’s. In 5.1 innings, the ‘pen allowed only that one run. In particular, JP Howell did a great job surviving the 9th and the mystery-man, Jason Hammel worked 3 scoreless innings.
THE BAD: Occasionally James Shields is susceptible to the long ball and last night was one of those nights, giving up 4 of the runs on 3 home runs...
THE TELLING: Eric Hinske talked his way into the starting lineup despite 1-15 career versus Joe Blanton. Hinske delivered with a 2-3 night including a 2-run home run… Al Reyes and Dan Wheeler must not have been available last night. With a 1-run lead in the 8th inning, JP Howell and Gary Glover were warming up. Both would come into the game eventually.
DEVIL RAYS WEBTOPIA…
- Don’t forget to VOTE for Carl Crawford to start the all-star game. If you haven’t voted yet today, go NOW! [MLB All-Star Voting]
- Don’t forget…this week’s Rays Index Live Blog-A-Baloo will be tomorrow afternoon for the series finale in Oakland and will be held right here.
- Prior to last night’s game, Marc Topkin called the match-up “something of a must-win game”. Little extreme, no? What if the Rays had lost last night? They would have still been in the lead for the wild card and still in 2nd place in the AL East. And what if the Rays lost last night and then went on to win the next 8 in a row? Would last night’s “loss” have really mattered? It is a little early to start with the hyperbole. There are still 117 games remaining in the season. [The Heater]
- The old baseball cliche is that a pitcher doesn’t learn how to pitch until he gets hurt…Scott Kazmir has struggled with his mechanics since coming off the DL and he is a better pitcher for it. [St. Pete Times]
“It seems like it’s gonna make me a lot better pitcher, just not having close to the stuff that I want and still getting hitters out,” Kazmir said. “I think it’s going to be really good for accuracy because right now I’ve mainly got to hit spots. I fall in and out once in awhile, but for the most part, it feels like I’m throwing the ball where I want to.”
- Evan Longoria has done an outstanding job of keeping his head on straight in the field even while struggling at the plate. [Tampa Tribune]
“There’s a period of time where, if I have a bad at-bat and I’m the last out of the inning or I’m on the bench and there’s two outs, I won’t take my batting gloves off until I’ve let my at-bat go,” said Longoria. “Or, I won’t go out onto the field until I’ve said whatever I needed to say, maybe slammed something or whatever – got it out of my system. Then, as soon as I go out onto the field, everything’s gone and it’s time to play defense.”
- Tom Verducci says that the Rays are perfect example of why the 2008 season has been the year of “The Bizarro Supermen”. [SI.com]
- We were waiting for David Chalk to chime in on the “Who’s better? Yanks or Rays?” debate. And now we have it, in typical Chalkian-style. [Bugs & Cranks]
- For all the craptastic managers in baseball these days, it amazes us that Bobby Valentine is managing in Japan. And now is word that he thinks Joe Maddon has a better job than Joe Torre. [Bugs & Cranks]
- Oy! A “Power Rankings” with the Rays at #4?!? Somebody get Satan a jacket. [Yahoo! Sports]
- Are the Rays [screwing] everything up in the AL East?…This would actually be a cool topic if it were serious. [Spoiled Sports]