Saturday, 24 May 2008

Baserunning: Learn with Hinske

Baltimore Orioles 0 - Tampa Bay Rays 2

Solid win for the Rays last night, thanks largely to, of course, some very solid pitching indeed. Matt Garza continued his sparkling record against the Orioles, pitching 7 1/3 innings, allowing only four hits, no runs, and striking out four. He worked out of a couple of jams as well, and was generally pretty excellent. Trever Miller came on in relief in a vital situation in the eighth, and with the help of a controversial call, didn't disappoint. With a runner on, Aubrey Huff was the first batter that Miller had to face. Huff, who should quite frankly be banned or something for the disgraceful way that he has assaulted Rays pitching since leaving Tampa Bay a couple of years ago, had already had a triple in the game, and looked to have added at least a double to that as he laced a pitch down the first base line, only to see it called foul by the first base umpire.

He was not happy! None of the angles they replayed it from on TV really showed whether it was the right call or not, but I will say this - Huff looked pretty convinced he was right. Miller kept his head in the game though, and came back to coerce Huff to hit into the inning-ending double play. Troy Percival then came in to pitch a perfect ninth, collecting his 14th save of the season.

For the O's, Jeremy Guthrie matched Garza out for out until the fifth inning. There, Eric Hinske got on board with a fading line-drive into left-centre with one out, and then proceeded to give a class on how baserunning doesn't have to be perfect in order to get results. With Jason Bartlett at the plate, Hinske took off on what the O's commentators said was a hit-and-run play, although judging by Bartlett's complete lack of any interest in making contact, I seriously doubt that. He had a pretty good jump actually, but then stopped about two-thirds of the way to second as Hernandez's throw came across the infield. It short-hopped Brian Roberts, who hadn't noticed that Hinske was now hung-up, and so Eric simply trotted on into second for the stolen base.

Bartlett eventually walked, bringing up Aki Iwamura. Aki had one of those days where he made great contact every time up, but it just kept going to where the fielders could get it. This time was no exception, as he lined a ball deep to centre, only to see Adam Jones somehow make a play on it. Hinske had taken off with the ball, and so when Jones did spear it, he had to rush back into second. Why he wasn't tagging, I have no idea. The ball was so far back that had it got past Jones he would still have easily scored from second, and otherwise would have had plenty of time to move up to third.

Still, luck was with Eric it seemed, as Carl Crawford stepped in and rapped a hit through the right of the infield, sending Hinske scampering around to score - thanks to a beautiful slide behind catcher Hernandez.

That run looked to be enough, but the Rays added a welcome insurance score in the eighth - in equally unorthadox fashion. With one out, Chad Bradford came in to pitch for Baltimore, and promptly walked BJ Upton. That saw the O's bench coach (their manager had been ejected for arguing the Huff call) bring in closer George Sherrill. And, before he had even thrown a pitch, Sherrill had made a mistake. He threw an attempted pickoff to first, but did so seemingly without warning to first baseman Millar, and so wildly that he couldn't have got it even if he did know it was coming. Upton moved over to third, and Carlos Pena hit the second ball he saw into deep left-centre. It looked like a sure-fire double, maybe even a triple, but somehow Luke Scott caught up and made an incredible play to rob Pena of a hit. Upton scored, but it could easily have been more. Considering the amazing outfield the Rays have, I think it says something about Luke Scott, Adam Jones and Nick Markakis that they each made a play last night that I would rate as good as, if not better than anything I have seen so far this season. They were outstanding.

The win moves us to 28-20, a game and a half back of Boston in the East. Edwin Jackson goes for the Rays tonight, as we look to carry on our hot home-form. He'll be up against former Ray Steve Trachsel.

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