“Good for them. They still lose the game.”
Joel Peralta, Tampa Bay Pitcher, Ejected in the Eighth
Last night, the Rays jumped out to a 5-2 lead in the top of the fourth and held on to defeat the Washington Nationals, 5-4. In the process, Tampa Bay gained a game on the Yankees, who saw their ten-game winning streak snapped by the Atlanta Braves. And while winning is the important thing for the Rays, the story centered around Joel Peralta’s eighth inning ejection, due to pine tar found in his glove.
On a steamy evening in June, it seemed a good time to check out the scuttlebutt in the Nationals dugout that Peralta had a foreign substance in his glove. Due to sweat, pitchers around baseball have used the pine tar to grip the ball for years. Davey Johnson, the Nats’ manager, acting on some insider information, decided to ask for Peralta’s glove to be checked before the righty threw his first pitch in the bottom of the eighth inning.
After taking a look at Peralta’s glove, home plate ump Tim Tschida ejected the reliever. Jake McGee took Peralta’s place, and silenced the Nationals on three straight ground ball outs. Joe Maddon asked for the umps to check our Washington reliever Ryan Mattheus’ glove, and it was clean. After an uneventful ninth for the Rays, Fernando Rodney came in and blew the Nats away in the bottom of the ninth, securing the one-run victory for Tampa Bay.
I can’t do the post-game dialogue justice, so here’s a link.
I’ve noticed a lot of clubs want to start something up with the Rays. A little gamesmanship here and there. And while some might not care for it, I think it’s a sign of respect for the organization. The Yankees aren’t real fond of Tampa Bay. The Red Sox aren’t best of friends with them either. Things have gotten testy with the Orioles, as well.
As the summer gets hotter, the intensity will build in the dugouts, as well. For all those who think baseball’s a non-contact, almost gentlemanly sport, it isn’t. It’s a tough game, played 162 times over the regular season, by highly competitive individuals. Often there’s a tension between the dugouts that couldn’t be cut with a chainsaw. It’s invisible, but it’s there.
As for Peralta, he could well get a suspension. Heck, he will PROBABLY get a suspension. But was he “cheating?”
No, not when everybody else is doing it. Not when it doesn’t have any affect other than improve his grip on the baseball. Do you think George Brett was getting an advantage back in 1983 with The Pine Tar Incident? No. But rules are rules.
Brett was ejected back 29 years ago. Peralta was ejected last night. To baseball’s credit, they looked into the pine tar on the bat and realized it had no positive affect. No one talks about the issue anymore. I’ll be interested to see how they look at the Peralta situation. For now, I’ll bet there are a lot of pitchers wondering if they’ll be next in line to be checked for foreign substances.
Tonight, Tampa Bay will be sending a rookie in to do a Rookie of the Year’s job. Chris Archer, just called up from AAA Durham, will be taking Jeremy Hellickson’s spot in the rotation. It is Archer’s major league debut. Hellickson is just another Ray to go on the disabled list. The Nationals will be sending Stephen Strasburg to the hill against the Rays. Strasburg is 8-1 this season, with 100 strikeouts in only seventy-seven innings.
I had the good fortune to see Strasburg during his rehab last summer. He was only going 95-96, but his repertoire was scary. And like I said, he was only going 95-96. He will probably hit triple digits more than once tonight.
Tampa Bay seems to be the template for the Nationals. They have built around pitching, and are young across the board. This is the first season in which they find themselves winning regularly, and in fact find themselves up by three games in the National League East. Just a few more reasons for a little added electricity at the ballpark tonight.
Image by Flickr user Steve Garfield