Saturday, May 30, 2009

A season on the line and Choate comes up big

It was the worst possible scenario for the Rays.  Minnesota Twins red-hot catcher Joe Mauer at the plate representing the tying run in the top of the ninth. He had already hit a single, double, and triple this game... a homer would complete the cycle.  Who would Rays manager Joe Maddon turn to?  J.P. Howell? Nope, already pitched.  Dan Wheeler? Nope, pulled him.  Grant Balfour? Jason Isringhausen. Nope. Nope. Instead, Maddon calls on one of the newest Rays: Lefty specialist Randy Choate.  The matchup didn't seem too promising.  Mauer's been a tough out all year. But, Choate did it! He struck out Mauer to get the Rays a much needed win at the Trop and put an end to the 5 game losing streak.

Here are some of the things I noticed last night:

  • Home cooking's good for the soul.  The Rays looked much more comfortable at home.  One of the Twins bloggers even commented on Twitter that the Trop had more artificial noise going than the Metrodome at a Vikings game. Nice. That's what I like to hear.
  • The Rays way return.  The whole game felt like a throwback to last year.  Stars stepping up. Good starting pitching.  Big outs by the bullpen.  All around good game.  Maybe it was because the Rays spent some time yesterday watching the MLB Network's replay of Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS.
  • Centerfield Power.  I don't know why, but I really enjoy watching homers that go out to straightaway center at the Trop.  We got treated not to one, but two thanks to Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria.
  • Willy Aybar and Ben Zobrist.  It was good to see those two making an impact on the game in the absense of Akinori Iwamura and Jason Bartlett.  The Rays are going to need Slick Willy and Zorilla to really be on top of their game the rest of the season.  These guys are important to the Rays moving forward.
  • James Shields goes deep.  I mentioned yesterday how important it is for the Rays starters to give plenty of innings. Shield still gave up a couple of bad pitches, particularly the Michael Cuddyer shot in the sixth.  But, the Rays were able to quickly get that run plus 2 more back in the bottom half of the inning.

The Rays still have to do this consistently before they craw back into the AL East race.  Tonight, David Price makes his 2nd start.  He needs to keep his pitch count down and give the Rays some good innings.

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