Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Net lag: Lucky 13

Tampa Bay Rays 7 - Oakland Athletics 6 (13 innings)

Watching Monday night's game yesterday, I was struck by just one single thought as the game neared its finish - "please, not another walk-off!" And, after falling to two consecutive walk-off defeats in St Louis, the bullpen was indeed back on form yesterday, denying Oakland 5 opportunities to wrap up the game with a single swing.

The early going made it look very unlikely that the 'pen would ever get the chance to save the game, as James Shields came out very shakily, allowing homeruns in the first and second inning to give the A's an early 3-0 lead. But, the battling batters fought back for him, starting in the fifth, when Eric Hinske belted a two-run homer. An inning later and the Rays had the lead, thanks to an RBI-double from Evan Longoria, and a run-scoring groundout from Cliff Floyd, only for Shields to surrender another homerun (Frank Thomas' second of the night) to tie the game again.

Still the batters swung though, and in the seventh Aki Iwamura doubled home Jason Bartlett to put the Rays back on top. Shields got through the seventh, and through 2 outs in the eighth, before Oakland once again tied the game up, and finished his afternoon. 7 2/3 innings, 8 hits, 5 runs and 4 strikeouts isn't Shields best outing ever, but considering how the afternoon started, its pretty decent.

So, 5-5 game, bottom of the eighth, enter the bullpen. First up, and Gary Glover gets the final out of the eighth. JP Howell pitches a scoreless ninth. Extra innings. Jason Hammel comes in, making his first appearance for 11 days. He got off to a shaky start, allowing a couple of walks, but then really knuckled down, with three excellent scoreless innings.

Still 5-5, top of the thirteenth, Pena is aboard, Longoria steps in and blasts a shot to deep left-centre, his fifth homer of the year, 7-5 Rays. Longoria had an excellent day, going 3-6 with 3 RBI, as well as a stolen base. Troy Percival came in for the save, which, after letting one run score on a triple that only barely stayed in the park, he collected - his 12th of 2008.

After the tough series in St Louis, a game like this is exactly what we needed - a battling win that included a solid start, excellent relief pitching, and clutch hitting. It was even more important with Boston winning their fourth straight - and I should like to offer my belated congratulations to Jon Lester for his no-hitter. I don't think there is anybody, not even Royals fans, that would begrudge him for it, not after all that he has been through in the last year or so.

Last night, we sent Scott Kazmir to the hill, so I hope that went well. All will be revealed (to me) tonight and then (to you) tomorrow. Unless of course you know already...

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