On the Verge of a No-Hitter, the Rays Pull One Out Against Hernandez
The first question after watching this game is: should the Rays have been no-hit? Then I have to ask: how did the Rays pull this game out? Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it looks like the Rays have finally figured out how to win at home. They won tonight by getting the right bounce, hitting it to the weak defender and finally by flat out hustling.
Even though the Rays have been on a roll lately, I always worry when the Rays are facing someone of the caliber of Felix Hernandez (who they faced tonight) or Justin Verlander (who they’ll face next week). I had a reason to worry as Hernandez was nasty for much of the game. He held the Rays “officially” hitless through the first four and a third innings.
Wade Davis was also pitching very well, but his defense betrayed him a bit in the third. Speedster Trayvon Robinson doubled to lead off the inning. He was at third with one when Franklin Gutierrez bounced a ball to Sean Rodriguez who was playing in at shortstop. Rodriguez’s throw to the plate was wild giving the Mariners a 1-0 lead. Davis escaped further damage, but even with how well Wade was pitching, the deficit looked pretty large.
In the fifth B.J. Upton smashed a ball just to the left of third baseman Adam Kennedy. The ball ate him up and got through to left field. With a no-hitter on the line, it took some nerve for the official scorer to rule the ball a hit. I would not have (and not because of the no-hitter). It’s a play Kennedy should have made, plain and simple. Upton took advantage of the miscue by stealing second and then third. He later scored on a safety squeeze by the newly activated John Jaso.
In the seventh, Kyle Seager broke the deadlock with his first major league homer to give the Mariners a 2-1 lead. It was one of the few mistakes that Davis made on the night. Jaso wanted an outside fastball, but the header came down and in and right into Seager’s happy zone. In the bottom half of the seventh, Casey Kotchman hit a grounder to Kennedy that bounced off his glove. This time, the official scorer ruled it an error. This was a much more difficult play and one that I would have ruled a hit. Hernandez pitched out of the trouble and was pitching in the eighth when the Rays made their comeback. The Rays put together five hits in the inning. Incidentally enough, three of them were hit in the direction of Kennedy. Sam Fuld singled through the third base hole to get the rally started. Johnny Damon then beat out an infield hit that Kennedy bobbled slightly. Evan Longria tied it with another grounder through the hole. With Brooks Robinson at third, Hernandez might have had a no-hitter, but more importantly he definitely would have had a lead. Ben Zobrist drove home the eventual winning run with a flare that dropped in front of Gutierrez in center.
When Kyle Farnsworth induced a ground out from Robinson to first to end the game, cameras panned to Hernandez, visibly angry in the dugout. This has been a tough year for the Mariners and you have to feel for a pitcher who threw really well, but lost anyway through no fault of his own. On the flip side, these are the new look Rays who are starting to make a run in the AL East. It may be too late, but every Rays fan knows that a Joe Maddon led club will not give up.
I’ll end this post with a few fun facts from this past week: The Rays were remarkable in their ability to hold Red Sox hitters to just nine hits over three games. Only American League teams have done better since 1973 (the start of the DH era). To do it against one of the best hitting teams in baseball is remarkable. What’s more, as I’m writing this, the Red Sox already have 12 hits against the Royals in six innings tonight.
Player of the Game: Felix Hernandez. He out-pitched Davis and deserved to win this game. Fortunately, the Rays didn’t let him.