Saturday, 4 October 2008

ALDS game 2 - Perseverance, thy name is Rays

Chicago White Sox 2 - Tampa Bay Rays 6

Scott Kazmir was asked in the lead up to yesterday's game which Scott Kazmir would show up for game 2 of the American League Division Series.

"Hopefully the good Scott Kazmir"

Uh-huh. With the bases loaded and nobody out in the top of the first, the good Scott Kazmir was looking like a distant dream. (Just for the record, I don't agree with Harold Reynolds' assertion that Kaz hit leadoff man Orlando Cabrera on purpose in retaliation for Thursday's war of words. I think it was a pure lack of control early on.).

By the time Scotty K had gotten out of the first, he had thrown 37 pitches and faced 8 White Sox hitters. The good (nay, amazing) news was that he had limited them to just two runs, a fine effort given the start he made. Still, things didn't look too good. He struggled again through the second, but this time held the Sox scoreless. David Price and Chad Bradford had both already been up in the 'pen, but Scotty kept going.

A scoreless third. A scoreless fourth. A scoreless fifth. He eventually left having battled through 5 1/3 innings, allowing 8 hits and 2 walks, but crucially just those two early runs. Kaz may not be at his best (or indeed anywhere near it) this year, but he has got a lot of heart, and he really showed it yesterday.

And, by the time he left, thanks to the ever-ready-to-fight Rays hitters, he was in line for the W. Dioner Navarro had pulled one back with an RBI-single in the first, before Aki Iwamura came to the plate with a man on in the bottom of the fifth.

During the regular season Aki had hit 6 homeruns, all of them off of rightys. But yesterday he stayed with a pitch from the lefty Buehrle and drilled it into the seats in left-centre. 3-2 Rays, and I think judging from the reaction in the dugout it was a moment that the whole team enjoyed rather a lot!

From there on in, it was up to the 'pen to protect the lead, and protect they did. With a threat brewing in the sixth, Grant Balfour came in and extinguished it big time, as he has done so regularly. He came back out for the seventh, and gave up two singles before Joe Maddon made another call to the 'pen.

Enter Mr Clutch the Reliever. If Kaz had been hard-working, and Balfour explosive, then JP Howell was simply brilliant. As he has done so often, he stubbed out the threat with the minimum of effort, setting down Thome, Ramirez and Pierzynski with ease. He came back and pitched a scoreless eighth as well. JP Howell is simply awesome out of the 'pen.

And that performance gave the hitters the chance to add some insurance, which they did with style in the bottom of the eighth. BJ Upton opened up with a triple to centre. Carl Crawford follwed with an RBI-single, then stole second and moved up to third on a groundout as Rocco Baldelli stepped in. He duly followed with an RBI-single of his own, and proceeded to steal the show when Dioner Navarro stepped in - demonstrating the epitomy of 2008 Rays baseball. Navvy lifted a blooper into short right, and with two outs, Rocco took off. The ball fell between the three converging White Sox, but as it was picked up Rocco was just approaching third. He didn't stop though as he rounded the bag at full throttle and flew across the plate, scoring on what had become an RBI-double for Navarro that had travelled about 160 feet. Awesome hustle for Rocco, and a four run lead to take into the ninth.

Not that such a big margin was needed though, as Chad Bradford breezed through the heart of the Chicago order, with the help of a nicely turned double play and a called third strike to Jim Thome.

So, a 2-0 series lead heading up to Chicago for Sunday evening's game three. Its a great position to be in, but I'm under no illusions that its going to be easy - US Cellular Field is a tough place to play, and the Sox will be sending another lefty to the hill. We'll be countering with Matt Garza, who I'm sure will be extra pumped up. Let's hope he can use it to his advantage!


David Horne said...

Great write up -- I am watching the games from Germany, stayed up half the night to cheer on the Rays, and will continue to do so.

Don P said...

I agree great write up!
It's also really nice to see Rays fans from other parts of the world. This is definitely a very special season for the Rays and it's great to have so many fans from all over along for the ride.

Also, I'll be bookmarking this blog. Your enthusiasm for the Rays is great.

Johnny said...

Hey, thank you both for visiting, and for your kind words. Much appreciated :)

Looking forward to tonight's game - assuming the rain holds off...

Keep on cheering

Go Rays!