Sunday, September 03, 2006

D-Rays lose but turn rare triple play

Rays hit 3 HRs & play stellar defense, but come up short to Seattle, 4-3

It was another gorgeous day in Tampa Bay and the Mrs. & I got a night out courtesy of our daughter, so what did we decide to do? You guessed it- take in a game under the Teflon Trop's dome! Why, you ask incredulously? Well for starters we got free tix thru one of my wife's many connections; second, with free tix and free parking, it makes for a cheap night out. And third, it allowed me to have something to post this morning, so it served a duel purpose of giving us something to do on a Sat, night & being able to post about it today; it's tough to post about having dinner at Outback.
The Rays were having another one of their FAN-tastic bobblehead giveaways; great I thought, another addition to my collection of sports memorabilia, or as my wife calls it junk. Who would the player be, I wondered? We soon found out it wasn't a player but a bobble-anchor desk of TV announcers Joe Magrane & De-Wayne Staats! D-Ray Fever- Catch It!
We get to the field and look for our seats, and lo & behold they are beauts: 2nd row from the field on the 3rd base side, so close I could see Adrian Beltre counting his stolen millions in his head while cracking his neck and spitting repeatedly during the National Anthem.
With the lowly Mariners in town (they have a worse road record than TB) and unknown pitchers Cha Seung Baek(who beat Boston earlier in the week w/ a 2-hit gem) and J.P. Howell starting, I didn't expect to see much excitement; judging by the sparse crowd, neither did anyone else. In fact I though the most excitement was going to come from the Mariner Moose mascot battling Raymond all night in an all-out a mascot war (always fun). But there was some excitement on this night, and it began in the first inning.

Howell was getting lit up like a roman candle early- the first 3 batters reached on a single (Ichiro, even slimmer up close), walk (Lopez) and RBI single by Take the Money & Run Beltre. Howell was behind everyone and they were just teeing off on his 3-1 fastballs. But just when it looked like the M's were going to blow it open in the first frame, which would have sent my wife and I to the Brew Pub early, a strange and rare thing happened: 104 RBI man Raul Ibanez battled Howell to a full count before striking out looking; at the same time Beltre took off for 2nd (was it a missed hit & run or was THM&RB running on his own?), & catcher Dioner Navarro threw a seed to SS Ben Zobrist covering 2B. Beltre tried to stop to let Lopez get home, but Lopez hesitated and Ben tagged Beltre, & then he must've heard what I was yelling from my box seat: "he's breaking for home!" Zobrist wheeled and threw another seed back to Dioner who blocked the dish and tagged Lopez for a "did I just see that?" strike 'em out- caught stealing- caught stealing home TRIPLE PLAY! The "crowd" went wild; we high-fived each other and everyone either said "do you believe that" or "what happened"? Turns out it was the first 2-6-2 Triple Play in MLB history and only the 7th since 1900 that started with a strikeout. I told the wife, "a triple play is pretty rare, so even if nothing else we saw a little history"- she seemed excited, or maybe it was the Bacardi Breezers.

The crowd (and my wife) was still buzzing when Rocco Baldelli stepped up to lead off the Rays bottom of the inning. I swear on my kids I said to my wife and newfound front-row buddy "hey, he just hit a leadoff homer the other night, watch him hit another one"-BOOM- Baldelli blasts one to deep center for a game-tying bomb and the crowd went wild again. I'll tell ya, 7,000 people can get pretty rowdy when the conditions are right. As far as excitement goes, you can't really beat a history-making triple play and leadoff, game-tying homer in the first inning.

Unfortunately it was downhill from there as the Mariners tacked on 3 runs and held the Rays scoreless until the 8th. That's when they mounted a little rally, courtesy of their talented kids.

With the score 4-1 in the bottom of the 8th Delmon Young, who had been 0-7 in his first homestand thus far, blasted a shot into the seats to close it to 4-2. Although the Rays got 2 more men on, a DP by Wiggy killed the rally. But after a nice 13- pitch ninth by Jon Switzer kept them in the game, the Rays got 2 quick outs in the bottom half before Zobrist stepped up and grooved one into the leftfield bleachers of M's closer JJ Putz to make it a 4-3 game. But anyone who follows the Rays knows their hideous record in 1-run games, so it's no surprise what came next: Baldelli drove one to deep center, again (all 4 of his AB's went to CF), but Ichiro caught it at the wall for the final out.

So the Rays lost and Seattle broke their 12 game road losing streak, but my wife and I looked on the bright side: we had awesome free tickets (thanks, Nancy), saw a historic play & 3 Ray youngsters hit HR's, and we got Magrane/ Staats Bobbledesks. What more could you ask for?

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