As Marc Topkin so eloquently put it, “There was plenty of emotion on the field Saturday night as the Rays raced out of the dugout to swarm Yunel Escobar, whose 10th-inning walk-off single capped a rare late-inning comeback and an impressive 4-3 win over the Tigers.” And for a team that was 2-32 when trailing after seven innings, last night’s win was huge.
Chris Archer was somewhat shaky in his start. He, however, was able to limit the damage to only three runs, effectively allowing the Rays to stay in the game and slowly grind out a comeback. Archer started the game with an inefficient 26-pitch first inning in which he allowed two base-runners. But he was able to work around a RISP threat to get out of the inning unscathed, setting the tone for much of Archer’s outing. With the exception of a three-run third inning, Archer worked through his jams fairly cleanly, holding Prince Fielder and Miguel Cabrera to only one hit in four combined at-bats.
Archer’s final line: 5 IP/5 H/3 R/3 ER/3 BB/3 K/1 HR, Archer’s pitching breakout: two-seam fastball (15 total, 10 for strikes, 0 whiffs), four-seam fastball (43 total, 25 for strikes, 2 whiffs), slider (36 total, 21 for strikes, 1 whiff).
Offensively speaking, the Rays slowly chinked away at the Tigers armor, ultimately forcing the game into extra innings.
Tampa Bay had a pair of scoring opportunities in the first and second innings, though they weren’t able take advantage of Justin Verlander until the bottom third inning. Desmond Jennings hit a one out triple to center field to get into scoring position. Ben Zobrist — who had three hits on the night — plated Jennings on a ground-out to second, bringing the Rays within two runs of the Tigers.
Matt Joyce got lucky in the bottom of the fifth inning, reaching base on a throwing error by Prince Fielder. Ben Zobrist was then able to move Joyce to third on a single to right, putting runners on the corners with only one out. Seeing an opportunity to bring the Rays within a run, James Loney smoked an 0-2 RBI single to right-field which moved Zobrist to second and continued the threat. But Wil Myers ground into a double play to end the inning, while the Rays would have to be satisfied with a one run inning.
The good guys followed up a relatively quiet sixth inning with another RISP threat in the seventh. But that threat came to pass after Loney was doubled up on the heels of a Joyce walk and a another Zobrist base-hit. And as the game moved into the later innings, it looked as though the Rays would let another close game go by the wayside. But the Rays weren’t done scoring yet.
Wil Myers led off the eighth inning with a ground-out to short, bringing Luke Scott to the plate. Luke took the first pitch for a ball then, sent a 1-0 line drive shot to right-field knotting the game up at three runs apiece. The game would stay tied until bottom of that fateful tenth inning.
The Tigers brought in the hard throwing rookie Bruce Rondon in to face Zobrist, Loney, and Myers. Zobrist quickly flied out on the first pitch, bringing Loney to the plate. Loney sent a base-hit up the middle and was subsequently lifted for a pinch runner (Sam Fuld) with Myers up next. Myers did not disappoint, singling sharply to center field.
Rondon was throwing hard, hitting 100 MPH multiple times. But his fastball didn’t have much movement, and the batters knew it.
Luke Scott was up next, ultimately battling Rondon to get into a full count. But Rondon won the battle, striking out Scott on a 92 MPH pitch, and giving Escobar the opportunity to play the part of hero. Zobrist and Fuld advanced to second and third when Rondon threw a pitch in the dirt, and Escobar whacked a 2-0 base-hit over the head, and off the glove, of Austin Jackson to plate the go-ahead run.
The game was not without its controversy though. Fernando Rodney dusted Miguel Cabrera off the plate on a 1-2 fastball that started at the belt, and tailed high and inside. Rodney came back with an 84 MPH change-up to wring up Cabrera for the first out of the 10th inning. Cabrera was none too happy and was seen yelling something at Rodney, while continuing to chirp vehemently at the Rays dugout. The Tigers skipper Jim Leyland took issue with the high-and-tight pitch after the game, saying,
“That’s not acceptable…I don’t care about throwing inside. But I don’t like it up there. We will not tolerate that. You can take that to the bank. We won’t tolerate that up to the head — to anybody.
“I’m not accusing anybody of anything, but we won’t tolerate that. If you’re going to just rear back and throw it, you can’t throw it there. If you’re throwing down at the legs, in or something, for a purpose, I don’t have any problem with that, but not upstairs. That will cause a lot of problems for people.”
Joe Maddon was “surprised” at Cabrera’s reaction and didn’t know what the fuss was about. Rodney went on to say,
“You know, it’s my job. You can have fun when you hit a home run, you can have fun when it’s a strikeout.”
“You have to pitch inside sometimes. If you pitch, you have to protect the strike zone, you have to pitch inside, outside, everywhere. You don’t want to hit nobody because the game is on the line. That’s what I have in my mind. I try to move him a little bit because you know the guy is a dangerous hitter. I take advantage tonight with that.”
The pitch was intended to be inside, though I have my doubts that it was Rodney’s intention to throw at Cabrera’s head. Furthermore, I haven’t a problem with pitching inside to Cabrera, especially after he went 4-for-4 the night before.
The New What Next
Jeremy Hellickson and the Rays will attempt to win back-to-back series’ at the Trop Sunday afternoon, taking on Rick Porcello and the Tigers. You can read about the pitching match-up here.
- Per Marc Topkin, Rodney says pitching inside to Cabrera was part of his game plan, and he will take same approach if he faces him today.