Game of the Day: Rays 3, Cubs 2
Try as they might: Just as the Rays battery of Troy Percival and Dioner Navarro appeared to be conspiring to hand the Cubs the game with a series of ill-timed passed balls/wild-ish pitches/kabuki theater skits, Longoria came through with a desperate do-or-die (he do) barehanded play on Reed Johnson's bunt to save the day, possibly the world. Also, great scoop by Willy Aybar in his 10th career game at first base.
The stroke: Earlier, Longoria put America's Team ahead with a solo homer in the sixth that probably scared the bejeezus out of the inhabitants of the team fish tank in center field. These are not the Rays that lifelong Tampa resident Lou Piniella, who used to manage here, left behind.
Economy, stupid: The Cubs are going to have a tremendous advantage in the World Series if Scott Kazmir needs 110 pitches to get through 4 2/3 innings. On the other side, Ryan Dempster had 107 pitches over five before giving way to Neal Cotts. That transition didn't go so well.
Can't Reed: Johnson made some ... interesting decisions in this game. Stretching a single into a double against the arm of B.J. Upton was bold. Trying to steal third with two outs was dumb. His two-out bunt attempt in the ninth was audacious, if a failure. He gets a "5" for bread, a "9" for circuses.
Did you know?: The scientific name for rays is Batoidea. Some people thought it was a bato idea to put another baseball team in Florida, but the Rays at last are proving they belong with the other life in the MLB ocean.
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Feelin' Rundown (Tuesday's other games):
Athletics 15, D-backs 1 — Good thing Brandon Webb bought some ERA insurance. The A's lighted him up for seven earned over 3 1/3, which only raised Webb's number to 3.27. Like a good neighbor, you know? ... Oakland. OK, where do ya' start? I'm so nervous. Wow. I'd like to thank Mark Ellis for his two homers, and Ryan Sweeney for going 3-for-4 with four runs scored — wow, Ryan, you had a steal, too — and Raj Davis for coming off the bench to go 2-for-2 with a homer and three RBIs. Wow, this thing is heavy, you know? Eric Chavez and Bobby Crosby, each of you guys went deep and drove in a couple! Kurt Suzuki, you had a homer, too, and did great work behind the plate with Justin "Don't Call Me Jason" Duchscherer. Justin, eight awesome innings, dude. You used to be in middle relief, I'm so proud of you, and so is Michele. Hey, Evan! OK, I'm hearing music. They want me to wrap it up. To all the guys in Oakland behind the scenes, Billy Beane, Hammer, you know who you are, and I couldn't have done this without you. Oh — thanks, mom and dad! China! Get out of Tibet! Oh, and great catch, Carlos Gonzalez! I love you, Academy!
Angels 6, Mets 1 — Whoa. A run, six hits (all singles), three errors. The difference in the Mets is striking!
Dodgers 3, Reds 1 — Revenge for the 1995 NLDS!. When I think of the '95 Reds, I think of Pete Schourek and Reggie Sanders at their peak, and I think of the ice-cream man uniforms — the cap especially — the Reds wore. They just looked like ... guys from whom you'd buy ice cream. ... Billingsley has been great in his past 10 starts (2.56 ERA) but can he take three turns in the rotation? Penny's on the DL and Hiroki Kuroda might be joining him. Not that he was especially bad, but remember when Johnny Cueto was good? It was April 3, 8. Those, literally, were the days.
Royals 2, Cardinals 1 — Mike Aviles homers — his third already in 12 games — to push the Royals ahead in the eighth for Kyle Davies, who improves to 3-0. Later, Aviles, who has 2,400 minor-league ABs, says this: "We have a good group of veteran guys and young guys here. It makes for a good environment. Right now our record doesn't show that, but things are turning around." You mean nobody told Aviles that he plays for the Royals? Cruel, man, cruel.
Red Sox 3, Phillies 0 — Jon Lester, sniff-sniff. He's blossoming before our eyes, Mother. Home run Coco Crisp, plus two stolen bases, and the Red Sox swiped six in all against catcher Carlos Ruiz 'n' pitchers. That might be a problem in a playoff game. Just saying. Wait, Terry Francona wants to say something. "I want to watch the game," Francona said before flipping on the Celtics-Lakers. OK, we're outta here.
Mariners 5, Marlins 4 — Felix Hernandez, like Ned and Lily Braden of Charlestown, is the only decent item in the M's rotation. In the fourth, he struck out the side on nine pitches — becoming the 13th pitcher in AL history to accomplish such an efficiency. Kenji Johjima should change his name (either of them) to Oscar, so that Felix can throw to Oscar.
Yankees 8, Padres 0 — No revenge for the '98 World Series! Curse you, Scott Brosius! Yanks outscoring folks 35-6 in six-game winning streak. Two more dingers for Jason Giambi — and we thought His Mustacheness was hot already. Andy Pettitte surpasses Ron Guidry for career wins as a Yankee. The career stats don't say so, strongly, but give me Guidry at his best and Pettitte at his best, and Guidry wins, oh, nine times out of 10. ... Sometimes, when a guy plays bad and fesses up and you go, "What else is he gonna say?" but I detect earnestness in Randy Wolf's self-assessment: "I was, quite honestly, awful today," Wolf said. ... super uber prospect Chase Headley is recalled and goes 2-4. Jay Bruce laughs at your '08 debut!
Orioles 6, Astros 5 — Miguel Tejada returns to Baltimore, only one season later but a couple of years older. Here's what he thinks of the state of the Orioles. Time of game: 3:12. Cecil Cooper was fined by MLB (so was Ron Gardenhire) for not doing enough to speed up the Astros pace of play. Next, a fine for the nature of the Astros' play. After that, they'll give him the Mets job. Hi-ohhhhhhhh!
Brewers 7, Blue Jays 0 — Someone needs to dress up like a pink gorilla in Milwaukee because Ryan Braun is a BEAST. Nothing against Braun, but even Craig Counsell hit a home run against the Jayz. They putting Harvey Wallbangers in Milwaukee's Gatorade jugs these days?
Rangers 7, Braves 5 — Fans at the Ballpark in Arlington Ameriquest Field the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington booed the heck out of Mark Teixeira, returning after leaving a $140-million contract extension on the table and being traded to Atlanta a summer ago. You know what? I'd boo too. Texas paid him handsomely, much more than most pre-free-agency guys make. Well, nuts to you, buddy. His agent is Scott Boras, and this winter Teixeira expects to command huge-mongous free-agent bucks, so those are considerations. But do you have to squeeze every motherflippin' dime out of your baseball talent? With guaranteed contracts over the life of what's expected to be a long career, you're never going to spend it all. Sorry, sometimes I'm with the proletariat. Chipper: 0-2. .400.
Twins 2, Nationals 1 — Livan shall be a good man again. Finally. He had an 11.10 ERA and a .467 batting average against him in his previous five starts. Twinkees get just enough offense from Justin to beat John Lannon.
White Sox 16, Pirates 5 — Sometimes they hit. The ChiSox club 19 hits and four homers after being limited to three runs combined in their past two games against the Rockies. Randy Wolf probably would apologize for Ian Snell, too, if he watched. Someone really needs to do an intervention with Snell; he is addicted to baserunners.
Rockies 10, Indians 2 — Did you guys know that Garrett Atkins lost a home run in the 163rd game against the Padres last year because of the umpires, and that the chin-first winning slide by Matt Holliday should have been unnecessary?
Tigers 5, Giants 1 — Look at all the milestones: 2,000 hits for Edgar Renteria. Homers in five straight games for Marcus Thames. The Gambler wins for the first time in six starts. 500,000 career cigarettes for Jim Leyland. Sounds like a party.
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Photo of the Day: One false move and the manager gets it
"Don't worry," new Mets manager Jerry Manuel told the assembled press. "My finger's not loaded."
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Fantasy Freaks (phonebook edition)
Lester (Red Sox) 7 IP, 6 H, BB, 5 K, Win
Giambi (Yankees) 2-3, 2 HR, 3 RBI
Pettitte (Yankees) 7 IP, 5 H, BB, 9 K, Win
Vicente Padilla (Rangers) 6 IP, 2 H, ER, 2 BB, 4 K, Win
Braun (Brewers) 3-4, 3 R, 2 HR, 3 RBI
Manny Parra (Brewers) 7 IP, 4 H, 4 BB, 5 K
Livan Hernandez (Twins) 7 IP, 5 H, ER, K, Win
Orlando Cabrera (White Sox) 3-4, HR, 3 R, 3 RBI
Davies (Royals) 7 IP, 5 H, ER, 3 BB, 4 K, Win
Pineiro (Cards) 7 IP, 7 H, ER, 4 K
Greg Reynolds (Rockies) 6 IP, 5 H, ER, 4 K, Win
Mark Ellis (A's) 3-4, 2 HR, 4 R, 4 RBI
Ryan Sweeney (A's) 3-4, 4 R, SB
Duchscherer (A's) 8 IP, 5 H, ER, 6 K, Win
Lackey (Angels) 7 2/3 IP, 6 H, ER, BB, 7 K, Win
Brandon Morrow (Mariners) IP, 2 K, Save, 0.90 ERA
Kenny Rogers (Tigers) 7 IP, 5 H, ER, BB, 2 K, Win
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Jay Bruce (Reds) 0-4, 3 K, .325 BA
Tim Hudson (Braves) 4 1/3 IP, 6 H, 6 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, Loss
Snell (Pirates) 4 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 6 BB, Loss
Paul Byrd (Indians) 4 IP, 9 H, 5 ER, BB, K, Loss
Webb (D'backs) 3 1/3 IP, 9 H, 7 ER, 5 BB, 3 K, Loss
Scott Olsen (Marlins) 4 1/3 IP, 11 H, 4 ER, BB, 2 K, Loss
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Words of Mouth
"I think I was seeing the ball in high definition tonight." — Ryan Braun