OK, you’ve all heard the saying the good pitching beats good hitting….let me assure you however that bad pitching makes the game interesting! WOW! I am still emotionally spent from that game yesterday, it was amazing!! The Trop was packed and most stayed to see the walk off win!
This game really didn’t get “started” until the bottom of the 8th inning. Armando Gallaraga had the Rays shut down for 7 innings allowing only 4 hits and 1 ER. James Shields did not pitch his best, allowing 9 hits and 2 ER in 6.1 innings. Shields left the game behind 2-1. Grant Balfour followed Shields and gave up a monster blast to Tampa native Gary Sheffield to run the score to 3-1.
The Tigers then brought in newly acquired Kyle Farnsworth in the bottom of the 8th and this is when the game got interesting. Eric Hinske led off the 8th facing the 98 mph fireballer Farnsworth. Hinske promptly deposited a Farnsworth fastball over the right centerfield wall to move the Rays to within 1 run, 3-2. Bartlett was over matched by Farnsworth for the first out of the inning. Akinori Iwamura sauntered to the plate and drove a firm single to centerfield. BJ Upton walked to the plate with the tying run standing on 1st and only 1 out. BJ launched a 3-1 fast ball to over the centerfield fence to put the Rays up 4-3 in the bottom of the 9th!
The Rays bring in Troy Percival to collect his 25th save – NOT!! Curtis Granderson deposited the first Perci pitch he saw into the RCF seats to tie the game in the top of the 9th at 4-4. Uggggg………… The Tigers and Rays then went down quietly into the top of the 10th inning. Once again we run Perci out to toe the rubber and try to keep the Tiger bats quiet. Perci faces Miguel Cabrera with a bad outcome – you guessed it – another home run! Now the Tigers are up 5-4 in the top of the 10th. Finally Perci had thrown his last pitch. Trever Miller came in to close the door.
Now I have been watching baseball for many years and cannot remember a time when I’ve seen such dramatics in the potential last at bat of a game. Willy Aybar, PH for Gross, walked to start the bottom of the 10th. Jason Bartlett squared to bunt and took a pitch right on the tip of his finger splitting open the nail and causing a lot of bleeding. This and I’m sure the intense pain he was feeling, sent him to the showers with a 0-1 count. Off the bench to PH for him was our last remaining position player — Shawn Riggans. Fernando Rodney throws as hard as anyone, mid to high 90’s. Riggans turned to swing and was hit directly in the middle of his sternum by a 93 mph Rodney fastball running in on him – the crowd went silent as Riggans hit the dirt! All 33,000 + stood and watched with anticipation for Riggans to get up under his own power. I think we all stopped breathing for a few seconds or so! After a few minutes of clear agony Riggo regained his breathe and walked ever so slowly to first base.
Next Ray to go against Rodney was Aki. Aki laid down a beautiful sac bunt to advance the runners to 2nd and 3rd with only 1 out. Carl Crawford came to the plate and deposited a single past the drawn in infield to score Aybar with the tying run! The crowd went mad!!!! With runners on 3rd and 1st Upton walked to load the bases. Longo stepped to the plate to become a hero once again. But, it was not to be this time as Rodney clearly overpowered our beloved rookie and struck him out.
So, here we go fans!!! Bases loaded, bottom of the 10th, tie score, 2 outs …. Up steps Carlos Pena. Carlos hung tough fouling off several pitches and bringing his count to 3-2. Now, isn’t this every young boys dream??!! Bases loaded, bottom of the 10th inning, 3-2 count, 2 out??!! WOW – the stage is set for tonight’s hero. Pena takes ball 4 and, appropriately, it is Riggans who jogs in from 3rd with the winning run!
WOW – I’m worn out just by reliving the excitement! What a game and what a series!! The Rays appear to have found that intensity they had lost for a bit. They looked great this weekend. Even when the chips were down they picked each other up and played hard as a team! Great to see!
Get some rest fans! We owe the Indians a sweep! Go Rays!!!