Mon., April 22, is a day for everyone — environmentalists and non-environmentalists alike — to surround ourselves with fresh air, feel the rich soil underneath their feet and discover their inner naturalists. Luckily, Tampa Bay organizations provide a variety of ways to help you show your love and appreciation for the planet we call home. If it's more convenient for you to celebrate over the weekend, rather than the Monday the holiday actually falls on, you have plenty of options.
Jeremy Hellickson, 2011 Rookie of the Year, took the hill for Tampa Bay and put on an impressive performance. Given a two-run lead to work with after the seventh inning stretch, Hellickson hit a speed bump, walking David Ortiz on four pitches and giving up a base hit to Kevin Youkilis. Well, that speed bump turned into 10-car pile up when Adrian Gonzalez stepped to the plate and took the 1-0 pitch over the Green Monster to give the home team a one-run edge with a three-run homer.
Hmm, that's not what Rays fans wanted to see... Sean Rodriguez decided to see what he could do about it. In the top of the ninth, with Ben Zobrist aboard with a walk, Rodriguez went yard over the Monster to give Tampa Bay the lead again.
While it's always a plus to have a super-human closer, the Rays ninth inning heir-apparent gave up the game in regulation, allowing the tying and go-ahead runs on a home run to left center by Jarrod Saltalamacchia in the Rays' 3-2 Saturday night loss to the Sawks at Fenway.
You know, the worst part of this loss was the lack of extra-curriculars. Where's James Shields when you need him? The Rays' old man in the rotation surely would have put the bean-ball on someone's thigh in recompense for Boston tagging Luke Scott in Friday night's game.
Lose-lose, I suppose.
As sports onomatopoeia go, it doesn't get much better than that. That was the sound Boston Redsox starting pitcher Jon Lester's 3-1 pitch made on it's way out to the Sox bullpen, courtesy of the bat of Matt Joyce of the Tampa Bay Rays. That bases-loaded bomb in the top of the third inning gave the Rays a 4-1 lead, one they'd never relinquish.
There were a few more fireworks from Tampa Bay's bats in the next inning. Elliot Johnson continues to impress, showing some power by going yard over Boston's fabled Green Monster with Chris Gimenez aboard to make it 6-2. Carlos Pena added a homer of his own immediately following for a six run lead at the hands of the Boston lefty.
On a night when starting pitcher Matt Moore wasn’t his sharpest but pitched well enough to win, a night when home run heroics from Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce weren’t enough, it was a free base that spelled disaster (insert obligatory Josh Hamilton joke).
“It’s not where it needs to be yet," manager Joe Maddon said of Moore's performance. "I think he tried to attack the strike zone, he’s just not able to throw it where he wants to quite yet."
The Rays’ first scored in the second inning; Ben Zobrist led off with a base hit and scored on Jeff Keppinger’s follow-up double.
Starting lefty David Price lasted a mere three innings against the Crimson Stawkings; after pitching his way out of a two-on, no-outs jam in the second inning, he gave up a three spot in the third, hitting former C Kelly Shoppach, yielding a double to Jacoby Ellsbury and walking Dustin Pedroia to load the bases. Adrian Gonzalez singled home a run to tie it up, followed by a sac fly from Kevin Youkilis for the lead. David Ortiz’s infield single capped the scoring in the third.
That question was answered emphatically with two swings and two rather audible CRACKS of bat-on-ball action.
“This is great,” said Pena, after driving in 5 runs on the day. “I am so grateful for a day like today. I’m happy to get the win, but to get it in such a way is something that I’ll never forget.”
I am slightly vindicated for writing this on the Pena homeruns vs. strikeouts dichotomy, hereinafter referred to as power vs. pfft… After getting a louder ovation than Evan Longoria—what?!—the returning fan fave cranked a two-out grand slam in his first plate appearance back in a Rays uniform—the first GS C.C. Sabathia has ever yielded to a lefty.
I think Carlos had read my blog. I don't think he liked it; that 3-2 pitch was probably supposed to be my head. The Rays went up 4-0 in the opening frame and I felt like a schmuck.
Clearly hitting wasn't going to be a problem that carried over from spring training.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled to have such a wonderful human being back in the Tampa Bay area. He is great for the community, philanthropically and from a fan’s perspective. Great with the media, he’s everything you could want when it comes to a genuine nice person. But I don’t want Dottie Berger-MacKinnon batting cleanup at the Trop either.…
The thing is, unless someone in the starting lineup is eating fresh kittens for every meal, I’m more concerned with their activity on the field than conduct off it. You don’t trade for someone who loves animals, right? A perfect example is newly-signed Ray Luke Scott. As CL's Mitch Perry reported, he’s been called the "Rush Limbaugh of baseball." Now people are free to think whatever they want about a person’s political leanings but, as a sports guy, I care more about what Scott does with his hands than with his mouth.
The win—Shields' fifth complete game of the season—gave the Rays their first home sweep of 2011; it also handed Tampa Bay the intrastate Citrus Series 4-2 over Florida (yawn).
Shields had only five CGs in 151 career starts headed into the 2011 season.
Shields gave up an unearned run in the first of his nine innings pitched, allowing four hits and no walks while striking out 10 men at the plate.
"How about Shields today? I mean, if that does not put him in the All-Star Game, I don't know what does," said Rays manager Joe Maddon. "Five complete games prior to the All-Star Break—that doesn't happen every year. It's the way he's done it too. He's just been dominating."
With Johnny Damon putting himself in the hall of fame conversation the night before with his 500th double, Shields tied a franchise record with five CGs; he currently leads the majors in that category less than halfway through the season.
“I did a lot of hard work in the offseason. I worked really, really hard on my delivery in spring training with [pitching coach Jim] Hickey and it's all coming together," said Shields. "It's nice to be able to throw CGs. It shows that the work is paying off. “
So long, and thanks for beating the Fish.
Cobb's brilliant performance—pitching six and one-third innings while yielding two runs on three hits—was one of several shining moments for the Rays on the evening. Johnny Damon hit his 500th career double to lead off the bottom of the first inning; he scored on the first of two sacrifice flies from Matt Joyce.
With that milestone, Damon joined an elite list of ballplayers—Babe Ruth, Rogers Hornsby, Goose Goslin, Lou Gehrig, Al Simmons, Stan Musial, Willie Mays, George Brett, Robin Yount and Paul Molitor—to have amassed at least 2,500 hits, 500 doubles, 100 triples and 200 home runs. While Damon is considered by some to be a long-shot candidate, all of the 10 previous players on that list are in the hall of fame.
"You look at these numbers, this guy keeps racking them up," said Rays manager Joe Maddon. "When you talk about deserving the hall of fame? Absolutely. That kind of performance deserves not only strong consideration but acceptance, I think."