I almost feel pangs of sadness for CJ Wilson…almost. I mean, the poor guy can’t catch a break. That he now has 10 consecutive starts without a win must really be weighing on his shoulders. I’d imagine that it could almost drive someone to drink. I’m almost inclined to console him…almost.
Credit where it’s due, his first four innings were pretty solid. With the way Wilson was pitching, combined with a less than quality eight run, 2-2/3 inning outing by Alex Cobb, a third win in a row seemed all but a pipe dream. Then two things happened: A) Maddon called in reinforcements from the pen, and B) Wilson got BABIP’d to death by the Rays in the fifth.
Cobber gave up eight runs on 12 hits including two dingers, where as the bullpen with Burke Badenhop, JP Howell, Kyle Farnsworth, Jake McGee, Joel Peralta, and Fernando Rodney at the helm, gave up practically nothing, stabilizing things on that end. The bullpen gave the offense a fighting chance to get back into the game after posting a combined 6.1 IP/3 H/0 ER/3 BB/6 K line. And get back into the game they did in the fifth inning.
Admittedly, things felt hopeless going into the fifth inning. Keep in mind that BJ Upton was the only Ray to reach base safely, and that was way back in the first inning. Jeff Keppinger led off the inning with a prompt ground out. Sean Rodriguez came up to the plate next and reached on a base hit. Ryan Roberts followed SeanRod with a base hit, and Jose Lobaton did his part by walking. The Rays were far from being back in the mix of things, but the game started to feel somewhat exciting with the bases loaded and only one out. Sam Fuld opened the floodgates for Tampa Bay, hitting an RBI single and giving us fans a glimmer of hope. CJ Wilson started to lose control of his pitches at this point.
Wilson walked Desmond Jennings to bring in a run then struck out BJ Upton, bringing him just three pitches away from getting out of the inning with a mere flesh wound. But before he could record that final out, Ben Zobrist creamed a base clearing double to left, bringing the Rays within striking distance of the Angels. With Zobrist on and two out, Evan Longoria hit a two run blast to deep center, completely changing the narrative of the game. The Rays scored seven runs in one inning for the second night in a row, and were now down by only one. Tampa Bay tied things up on a Jose Lobaton sac fly to bring home Roberts in the sixth, and would take the lead for good in the top of the eighth after Carlos Pena two-run pinch hit bomb to right field.
The beauty lay in this being a true team effort. Sure, there were three Rays that had a multi-RBI game, but I’d be hesitant to call Ben Zobrist, Evan Longoria, or Carlos Pena the game hero. In the end, BJ Upton was the only player in the lineup that didn’t contribute to the cause.
Tampa Bay, who is now 8-1 against the Angels this season, will face Zach Greinke this afternoon, attempting to take their first four game sweep in some time. The Rays start the day just five games back of the Yankees in the AL East, and ahead of the A’s by a game in the wild-card race. Greinke was looked at as being the final puzzle piece on the Angels pitching staff when he was acquired from the Brewers at the trade deadline. He, however, has won one game for the Halos while posting a six plus ERA in four starts. ESPN, again, has the Rays favored as the underdog, (see below) and I’m okay with that. They’ve been regarded as the underdog for the vast majority of this road trip. Regardless of the John Kruk’s of the world, it cannot be denied that this road trip has been a massive success for Tampa Bay. The Rays are playing at a whole other level, and as my buddy Rickie put it, it just got real.
Rays 8/19/12 Starting Lineup
Noteworthiness: Ben Zobrist will be getting a well needed rest today, finding Elliot Johnson at short and Ryan Roberts at second base. I’d imagine that Zo would be available off the bench. I’m thinking that CJ Wilson listened to Straight Edge Revenge on repeat last night. He had to Stuart Smalley himself somehow.