In case you haven’t heard, Rays third-baseman Evan Longoria made his triumphant return to the Trop last night after spending three months on the DL with a partially torn hamstring. And though he didn’t go 4-4 with a grand slam, he definitely contributed to the Rays 4-1 win over the Jays. Let’s quickly go through the good, the bad, and the ugly of the game.
- Four runs on nine hits and a walk. Sure, I’d love to have seen the Rays score more than four runs. However nine hits, including five doubles, was pretty great.
- Desmond Jennings had a big night, going 2-3 with a double and a single. He also scored half of the Rays four runs.
- Zobrist also had a good night at the plate. Zo went 1-3 with a double, a walk, and an RBI.
- Holy crap, even Ryan Roberts contributed offensively, going 1-4 with a bloop double and a run. We’ll just keep it our little secret that he stranded two on the bags and struck out…again.
- Welcome back Longoria! Longo went 1-3, reaching base safely twice on a walk and a single. He also came about four feet shy of a third inning grand slam, instead settling for a deeply hit sac-fly which drove in Desmond Jennings. Hey, at least he drove in a run!
- This one is a big up to the almost 14,000 fans that gave Sam Fuld a standing ovation when he came in to pinch run for Evan Longoria in the bottom of the eighth. “Really want to thank everyone for the nice ovation I got tonight for pinch-running..totally unexpected…great surprise,” tweeted Super Sammy after the game. It bears mentioning that Fuld is a class act. And Sammy, we won’t hold your overt hipster-ness against you, since your new walk up song is Electric Feel by MGMT. Ahem, that song may be a guilty pleasure for some of us here, ahem.
- Okay Shieldsy, you have to get one more big game under your belt before you can get back your nom d’emprunt, Big Game James. In any case, I’ll be damned if Shields wasn’t great last night. With the exception of a 3-2 change-up left high in the zone to Colby Rasmus, which cough…ended up in the right field stands, Shields was damn near untouchable. No, he didn’t go the distance (though he was close) or strike out 11. Shields did, however, put together an impressive 8 IP/3 H/1 ER/1 BB/6 K performance. Shields threw 116 pitches (67 for strikes, 14 for swinging strikes) while working right at 50% fastballs on the night. He also varied the off-speed stuff fairly evenly between the change, curve, and the cutter/slider.
- Fernando Rodney: the man, the myth, the legend. With another scoreless appearance that ended in yet another save, Rodney set the team reliever record at 22 consecutive scoreless inning, surpassing Joe Borowski who set the franchise record with 21 scoreless innings in 2005. We’ll forgive the wild pitch that bounced over the backstop/net.
- 2-8 wRISP, and 11 left on base. Guys, that’s a 25% conversion rate.
The New What Next
Alex Cobb (5-8, 4.60 ERA) will take on Carlos Villanueva (6-1, 3.19 ERA) in tonight’s game. We initially noted that Alvarez would get the start for Toronto. Whoops. Any-who, the Rays have posted a .411 BA/.507 OBP/.768 SLG/1.275 OPS in 56 at-bats against Villanueva, including nine extra base hits and 16 RBI. Ben Zobrist accounts for three of those extra base hits, and five of those RBI, on the backs of three taters off the righty. The Rays are 3-0 in games that Villaneueva appeared in this season, including a five earned run shellacking back on April 18. What’s more, Villanueva was tagged for a career-high eight runs and nine hits over 2-2/3 innings of a loss on August 3, 2011. The Rays will be hungry walking into tonight’s game, and rightly so. Zobrist, Upton, Pena, Keppinger, Fuld, and Joyce have posted some pretty encouraging numbers against, and I’d imagine that they each could an important role in some capacity tonight. We’ll post the starting lineup when it becomes available.
Rays 8/8/12 Starting Lineup
Pinellas County Finally Grew A Spine?!
The Tampa Bay Times reported that the Pinellas County Commission (PCC) has extended an invitation to the Rays to discuss their future in the area. According to the article, the PCC would like an opportunity to speak with the Rays organization prior to Hillsborough’s previously announced meeting. “Intent on keeping the Rays in the area, Pinellas officials watched last week as their across-the-bay counterparts took the controversial step of asking the team to start discussing its plans. At a meeting Tuesday, Pinellas commissioners voted unanimously to make their own request: Meet with the home team first.”
I like this. Pinellas needed to step to the proverbial plate, especially since nothing much has been made publicly following the initial meeting between the Rays principal owner Stu Sternberg and St. Petersburg mayor Bill Foster earlier this year. If the Rays are the regional asset that we all feel they are, Hillsborough cannot dominate the narrative over what could or should be the future of the Rays. It has been speculated that “Pinellas is just returning volley and wants to make sure Tampa isn’t upstaging them.” However, it’s ridiculous to assume that St. Petersburg or Pinellas County officials would play dead and allow Hillsborough to just steal the Rays across the bay. I don’t feel that a move across the bay is, as DRaysBay put it, “nigh inevitable,” and the PCC is finally doing its due diligence by becoming part of the narrative and initiating its own set of stadium talks. Things should get interesting folks.