Game 36 Recap
I’ve heard that back in the day, there were journalists out there who wrote two different stories in the late innings of tie games, one for if the team pulled it out and one for if the team lost. Through seven innings, I was thinking we were going to pull it out. Instead, we lost yet another one that we didn’t need to.
Originally, my preface here was going to be about how we eked out a run against a pitcher that ended up dominating us in the late innings. Now, I have to talk about the eighth inning. Jason Vargas threw four perfect innings to start the game out because the Rays happen to be terrible against left-handed pitching. Through the first four innings, Vargas’ pitch count was only thirty-two, twenty-two of which went for strikes. The Rays were swinging early and putting the ball in play. It wasn’t working out well for them.
Oddly, in the fifth, they opted to become more aggressive, with eleven of sixteen pitches going for strikes, and they managed their first hit of the game, but things slowed down in the sixth, with twelve of twenty-four being called strikes and only five of twelve in the eighth. One would think that a manager would recognize Vargas seemed to be getting tired, and that a low pitch count was not reason enough to keep him going out there into the eighth, but nevertheless, Wak did.
We all know what follows because we’ve seen it too many times lately. We have a lead, and in the eighth inning everything blows up. Upton and Navarro had back-to-back singles, Upton moving to third as he had previously stolen second off a slightly rusty Rob Johnson behind the plate (the first time a Rays runner had even been in scoring position). League gives up a single to Bartlett and then is pulled after a sacrifice bunt by Bartlett and an intentional walk to Crawford, and that brings up the Sean White vs. Ben Zobrist match-up that ends in a sac fly and the tying run scoring before Longoria lines out.
From there, the story pretty much writes itself, except in our case we had the added fingernails-on-chalkboard effect of the Fox broadcasters not shutting up about pop music. Gutierrez drew a leadoff walk and stole second in a turnabout play off John Jaso entering the game, and then he was left out there, stranded after getting into scoring position. Jesus Colome served seven pitches to Willy Aybar and then I stumbled back to my ethernet connection, numb, because I had known the loss had been coming since the eighth.
The rest of the game, I don’t have all that much to write about because frankly, it wasn’t interesting from our perspective. Tui somehow got the start at first against a tough right-hander instead of Kotchman and went 0-for-4, striking out twice and stranding three. Heck, I would have settled for Langerhans out there again. The offense was not good, and after Mike Sweeney’s third home run in as many days, James Shields turned in four perfect innings of his own before Adam Moore’s single.
Funny, because yesterday, I wanted to talk up Moore’s good points, and today he struggled to justify much of that. He grounded to short in his first at-bat and had an ugly K in the fifth, one of ten against Shields on the day. He did well to knock out Longoria when he hit the tapper to the left side, but mostly, what we’re going to remember is him bruising his heel, or knee, or whatever, and coming up hobbled after his infield single in the eighth. If he comes out for a pinch-runner then, even Rob Johnson as the case probably would have been, we’re sitting pretty with runners on second and third with one out on Ichiro’s should-have-been double. At that point, Figgins doesn’t have an easy double play to ground into.
Speaking of which, I also wanted to talk up Figgins’ good points today, but can’t easily. He had a double in the first, legging out a close one that he probably shouldn’t have attempted, and then got a bloop single stolen from him his second time up. His last two at-bats were a strikeout and a double play. Whatever confidence he might have gained from forcing the error and scoring on a wild pitch in the first was probably undercut by not being able to come through in the eighth.
A few other “highlights”, so to speak, included Lopez snagging two liners, one in the sixth against Gabe Kapler that he jumped up to snag, and one in the eighth against Longoria again that probably spared us further run scoring. If he hadn’t been posting a .436 OPS in May, we might be talking about these sorts of things a little more.
Anyway, it’s still light out, the weather is pleasant, so go out and enjoy yourselves. There’s no miracle in this one, just another frustrating loss where the M’s let a winnable game get away from them. It’s getting mundane.