OK, this is the third time I have tried writing this post. My computer is acting up, and has inadvertently deleted the first two efforts. I am about as frustrated as the Tampa Bay Rays at this point, after they had a promising ninth-inning rally thwarted by a highly questionable umpire’s call. In dropping two of three games to the Baltimore Orioles, the Rays nevertheless showed heart and hustle, and made comebacks in both of the losses, while winning the middle game with a Matt Joyce walk-off solo homer.
Down 6-2 in the ninth, Sean Rodriguez was hit by a pitch before Ben Zobrist lashed a single to right. Evan Longoria smacked a drive off the left-center field wall, and was called out for passing Zobrist, who was retreating to first in an attempt to tag up if needed. First base umpire James Hoye glanced back over his shoulder at Zobrist and Longoria as he ran toward the middle of the infield. After the ball was thrown in, he called Longoria out. Manager Joe Maddon asked Hoye to request help from home plate ump Jim Reynolds, but Hoye insisted he had the call right.
Bad call or not, the Rays had run into Crush –uh, Chris Davis – while he was busy playing superstar. Davis had seven hits in twelve at bats, with a pair of doubles, two home runs, and eleven RBIs.
Takes from the series:
-The Rays looked very good on defense. Evan Longoria flashed his Gold Glove form, making plays to his left and right while throwing out batters from his knees and his backside. James Loney looked smooth at first base, and Yunell Escobar appears to be a good fit at short. And of course Ben Zobrist can play anywhere, and do the job. TB seems to have a lot of defensive flexibility, which Joe Maddon must love.
-The only negative – and it will be a short-lived negative – was the bullpen. The Rays gave up more runs in three games out of the ‘pen than you can expect to see over the next month. Seriously. The relief corps will put it together sooner rather than later.
-On offense, Tampa Bay looked good to me. They manufactured runs, hit the long ball, and battled from behind. Joyce had a base hit bunt when the Rays needed base runners in the second ball game, and then hit the ball out of the park to win the game in the ninth. This afternoon, four TB hitters in a row hit the ball up the middle, and Tampa Bay was able to tie the Orioles. The club took what the defense and the pitchers gave them – it appears they have an offense that will do what it has to do to score runs. They could be a lot of fun to watch this season.
-It’s tough blame umpires for game outcomes. I’ve never done it in over twenty-five years of coaching. All I could ever ask is “Did you see it well? If not, could you ask for help?” It didn’t appear the call on Longoria was well-viewed. How about asking for some help? Do whatever you can to get the call right. I’ll be curious to see what comes out about the call over the next couple of days. Sometimes, umps just miss the call – they’re human, and that’s allowed. But I wish MLB would encourage more umpires conferences when something out of the ordinary happens. It would only make the greatest game even better.