June 26, 2011
A: Houston Astros
W: J.P. Howell (1-1) 9.31 ERA
L: Wilton Lopez (1-4) 3.18 ERA
It was a wild, wild game. It was a game that saw 24 runs. It was a game that saw both teams hang close to each other. It was even a game that saw two players, Jeff Niemann and Wade Davis, collect their first big league hits. Fortunately, it was a game that the Rays were able to win.
It looked like the Rays might be off to another easy win when B.J. Upton hit a three run homer in the top of the first. Unfortunately, Niemann had nothing as the Astros tied the game after two and took a 5-4 lead after three innings. Carlos Lee drove in three with a triple and a double.
Joe Maddon had seen enough of Niemann who was yanked after three innings. He’s now had one good outing and one really bad outing since returning from the disabled. Unfortunately, Cesar Ramos, who replaced him, wasn’t much better as he allowed two more runs in the fourth.
The Rays offense was certainly humming as well. Astros’ starter J.A. Happ struggled through five innings and “only” gave up five runs. It should have been a lot worse. In the fourth, the Rays had tied the game at five and had runners on second and third with one out and couldn’t score anymore runs. In the next inning, down 7-5, they again had runners on second and third and no one out, but couldn’t score.
They tied the game in the sixth after Juan Cruz had finally kept the Astros scoreless in the fifth, when Evan Longoria hit a two-run homer into the first row of the Crawford Boxes in left. At first, the umpires ruled that the ball was off the wall. Longoria stopped between first and second to argue the call and was tagged out. He stayed on second base, however, when the umpires looked at the replay and correctly ruled that the ball was a home run. What if Longoria had gone back to the dugout like he should have after he was tagged out? Would have had to come back out and round the bases to complete the run?
The Astros retook the lead in the bottom of the seventh on a Jeff Keppinger home run. In the eighth, the Rays loaded the bases. Joe Maddon had one guy left on his bench, Matthew Joyce. He used him as a pinch-hitter for Sean Rodriguez. Joyce delivered with a two run go-ahead double. Casey Kotchman followed with a two run single.
The runs were important as again the Astros came back. Matt Downs homered off of Joel Peralta who was quickly lifted by Maddon once again. The Rays were able to ice the game in the bottom of the eighth when Longoria hit his second homer, this time a three run shot. Kyle Farnsworth collected the last three outs to give the Rays the series sweep.
Player of the Game: Anytime a team scores 14 runs and collects 19 hits, you know there some guys that had some big days. Longoria had four hits with two homers, a double and a single. B.J. Upton had two hits and drove in four. Ben Zobrist had three hits and scored four runs. Johnny Damon collected four hits of his own and scored three runs. Yet, I’m going to with Juan Cruz who pitched two scoreless innings in the middle of the game. He provided length and quality to at least keep the Rays in the game. Otherwise, Maddon would have had to extend guys like Howell, Peralta or Adam Russell.