It was grrrrls night out and Lil Miss, my niece, and I took advantage of free tickets on Wandy night. Yes, I said I wasn’t going to the Box any more. Yes, I meant it. Yes, I fell off the wagon and won’t get my month pin. In spite of all the squalking about what a great draw interleague is, the Box had the usual Friday night crowd – about half full – and I didn’t have any trouble finding free street parking, even at 6:30.
Roof closed, thank God – got NO idea how they stand it in Dallas. Made it to our seats in time to see
the Rays have Texans on the team – Kelly Shoppach, the catcher, Justin Ruggiano, the LF, Ex-Stro Ben Zobrist (given up in one of the stupidest trades EVAH: 3 months of Aubrey Huff with no draft picks because of no arb offer for Ben Zobrist and Mitch Talbot), JP Howell (UT) and Jeff Niemann (Houston boy – remember him from the 04 CWS champion Rice Owls? Wade Townsend never made it past AA and Phil Humber, after all these years and 4 teams, is having his first significant season as a ML starting pitcher with the White Sox. Who would have thought that Lance Pendleton, the team’s best hitter, would be a minor league reliever, or that Chris Kolkhorst would only make it to A ball, but Paul Janish would be a ML regular? Youneverknow. But I digress…)
It started out pretty well for Wandy – he threw a few too many balls, but he got 1,2,3 out. Very first inning, Evan Longoria fouled off a pitch that bounced hard in the dirt in front of JR Towles and hit him what looked like under the chin – got under his mask. He kind of reeled – it was tough to see what happened exactly, but after 10 seconds or so, he got back down and Wandy finished off the inning.
Second inning, Wandy had trouble locating the changeup and walked Upton on a 3-2. With Shoppach up, Wandy threw a curve low and inside as Upton broke for second. JR seemed to have trouble rising quickly from his crouch and kind of wavered and tripped over Shoppach and didn’t throw. I wondered if he had been hit a lot harder than it looked and maybe his balance was off or something. But Wandy got the curve working and was spotting the FB inside beautifully and got Shoppach staring and Ruggiano swinging and Kotchman broke his bat as he popped up to Wandy.
Meanwhile, James Shields, 16th rounder in 2000, has turned into some kind of pitcher – last year, he had a 5+ ERA, 1.46 WHIP and a .294 BAA. Year before that he had a 4.14 ERA/1.32 WHIP/.274 BAA – meh. Not sure what he did in the offseason this time, but he must have developed a changeup – that’s what the board called it – but it had unbelieveable movement – guys were swinging and missing and it took him 19 pitches for 6 outs. I knew the guy had pitched 2 CG in his previous 2 games and Lil Miss said something about if he kept it up, I mean down, he’d have an easy nono.
Wandy, meanwhile, was up to 32 pitches. Third started out fine – he got Johnson, the SS, swinging, and Shields at 1-1. Then – can’t believe this – either the backswing of the bat caught JR on the face or the ball was fouled and bounced up and hit him but he got it in the jaw HARD – trainers ran out – he was upright, but they had what looked like towels over his lower jaw and we thought it might could be broken. Lil Miss asked a guy listening to Milo if they had said anything about what happened to JR, but no. They took him off the field and Corporan had to go in – no warning. Wandy threw Shields 3 pitches, all out of the zone – he fouled off the first, took the second for a ball and swung through the 3rd.
I don’t know exactly what happened, but Wandy suddenly couldn’t get movement, or locate – maybe he lost his concentration or was worried about JR’s possibly broken jaw or missing teeth or whatever, but Sean Rodriguez, hitting about the Mendoza line, singled, stole second easily – Wandy had made 1 sort of halfhearted pickoff throw. Benny Z took him to 3-2, then singled to right and Sean Rod slid behind Corporan, blocking the plate ON the 3B line, to score. Wandy then threw a FB down the middle to Longoria and you can’t do that and the ball went into the concourse next to the Conoco Pump.
Oh geez – there goes the ball game fer SHER.
Then BJ Upton fouled off a couple, then sent a line drive juuust over the yellow line to the first row of seats in the Crawford Boxes where some fan caught it. Clank had a fit, the umps came running, Millsie-poo came out and the umps went down to look at video. I told Lil Miss it had to be legit because you could see the fans near the guy who caught it weren’t yelling at him the way they do when it’s fan interference that screws the Astros.
And sure enough, it stood. Wandy threw 6 pitches to Shoppach, non of which were in the strike zone – he took 3 balls, fouled off 2, then hit the last outside pitch to Wallace.
32 freaking pitches, 4 runs after 2 outs.
Lil Miss said – good thing Uncle and Daddy ain’t here – they’d be wantin to go. I said – no, they be wantin to go after an Astro got a hit because even they wouldn’t want to leave in the middle of a no hitter.
Sure enough, Astros go 1,2,3 on 11 pitches, not quite 3 minutes. Poor Wandy.
But he came back and got 1,2,3 outs on 6 pitches. Looked as if he just might could be finding the strike zone again.
Bourn singled to lead off the 4th, a hard clean single to right. Good – there wouldn’t be talktalktalk about how some IF bunt or something broke up a nono. But Kepp grounded right to Longoria, who threw to second, and the SS made a bad throw to Kotchman and pulled him waay off the bag – no error, naturally. 2 pitches later, Pence did the exact same thing, only this time, the throw was on the money for a GIDP.
5th inning, Shields struck out swinging. Sean Rodriguez went to 3-2, then hit a ball down the LF line – CJ was playing waaay off the line and he tried to get it – ball hit off the tip of his glove and hit the 3rd base coach and bounced back to Barmes, so Sean Rod couldn’t go past first. Benny Zobrist then drew an 11 pitch walk – 1 called strike, 6 fouls. Longoria took a strike, then Wandy threw a ball in the dirt that Corporan couldn’t handle and runners advanced. Longoria singled to right and Sean Rod scored. Ah well – even if the 3rd didn’t happen, Wandy still would have given up that run – had trouble finding the strike zone this inning too. BJ Upton came up and GIDP – hit a very hard grounder to 3rd – CJ made a great grab n throw. He’s like Mo Ensberg – sometimes he’s so good I can’t believe he ever makes dumb errors. Sometimes he’s so bad I can’t believe he ever makes plays.
Clank up, hits a lazy FB to right. Man he sucks. Cleanup hitter – BAH – he should be cleaning the bench. Downs would do a better job, but he doesn’t make enough money and besides, better to save a guy who CAN hit and hit for power for those all important rare pinch hit jobs, dontcha think? Anyway, Wallace, who is ofer his last 6 games, and has been swinging and missing a LOT, swings and misses 3 pitches. CJ is hit by an errant inside changeup. Barmes up, goes to 3-2, then can’t check his swing on a slider – first one I’d seen all night – that was almost in the dirt and a good foot outside. Man he sucks.
6th inning – Wandy goes back out – he’s at 96 pitches – and gets 1,2,3 out on 11 pitches. We up – Corporan Ks, Angel Sanchez, pinch hitting, grounds out. Bourn walks – he doesn’t seem to be trying to steal – not sure why – if it is trouble timing Shields, still goin strong, or if Shoppach is all that.
7th inning – Fernando Rodriguez in to pitch – gets Johnson and Shields (yes, swinging again), then Sean Rod singles (guess the boy is loving this here park) but Ben Zobrist grounds out.
We up. Pence flies out, Clank grounds out. Wallace up – now ofer, like 24 or something goes to 2-2, then hits a little nubber to the 3rd base side of the pitchers mound – kind of like a perfectly placed bunt. Shields jumps to field it, but is way off balance when he throws and he pulls Kotchman off the bag and Brett Wallace, slow as molasses, breaks the ofer with an IF single. CJ is up and it’s a good thing that there are 2 outs because Wallace takes off with the crack of the bat and the ball flies up onto the Hill – a GOOD 420′ and by the time Upton gets it and throws it back, CJ is on second and Wallace is crossing home with all the grace of a charging hippo. Actually, I think hippos run a lot faster. But I digress.
But no shutout now – thank you CJ. So does Millsie-poo remember his little discovery that you CAN pinch hit for Barmes? Does he send in Downs, seeing as how we have started this little rally against a pitcher who has so far given up only 1 hard hit ball? No, Barmes goes to bat and naturally is out.
I’m starting to not think real too much of Millsie-poo.
8th – fans are leaving now – I mean the ones who don’t want to stay for fireworks. Francosco Rod gets 1,2,3 out and so does Shields – pinch hitter is Jason Michaels, who strikes out on a check swing – he argues – and looks foolish because even we could see that he went around – and on apitch he had no business swinging at.
9th – we get the Rodriguez trifecta when Aneury comes out. he gets a grounder, gives up a double down the LF line to Kotchman, but then gets Johnson and Shields swinging.
Yes, Big Game James has earned himself the Platinum Sombrero – 4 swinging Ks. He needed one more to beat Preston Wilson’s record, but the poor boy didn’t get the chance. He DID get 9 Ks from Astros hitters including Pence in the 9th.
Fireworks were nice – sure wish they’d replace the lame-o oldies rock/country with some hiphop, just for a change. Even Old Skool hiphop.
I wonder if this team, still with its death grip tight on last place in the majors, is gonna make it to 62 wins. I think not. Some days I worry about making it to 40 wins.
Tomorrow, it’s Bud Norris, newfound ace, vs Wade Davis, RHP. The Rays have LOTS of pitching this year – it’s hitting they lack. But they’ll play their good hitters Matt Joyce and Sam Fuld against a righty.
I am, by the way, laughing at all the – Rays Should Leave St. Petersburg – articles. They got a contract with that stadium for 16 more years. Besides, like, where they gonna go? Who is gonna build them a shiny new stadium? Who has the money? Who has the corporations? Who has fans to spare?