Winning baseball teams need their stars to be stars and the Rays are not an exception to the rule. Whether its leaning hard on David Price to deliver quality start after quality start or expecting Evan Longoria to drive in key runs in what are deemed clutch situations. Fair or not the expectation is for the stars to deliver is there.
Last night the Rays had an opportunity to bust the game wide open in the 8th inning. Despite a baserunning gaffe by Sean Rodriguez earlier in the inning, the Rays had already scored a run to tie the game at 4-4 on a pinch hit 2-out double by Luke Scott. After allowing the tying run to score Mariners pitcher Carter Capps walked both Desmond Jennings and Ben Zobrist on 10 pitches the majority of which weren’t even close to being in the strike zone. They were what would be considered as “non-competitive pitches.”
The Rays couldn’t ask for a better situation. The bases were loaded, the pitcher couldn’t find home plate, and their most powerful hitter was at the plate. It is situations like these that elite players come through for their teams. It is situations like these that playoff teams capitalize on.
Unfortunately, Longoria didn’t work Capps over like you’d expect a hitter of his pedigree. Good hitters work a pitcher and look for their pitch to drive. Inexperienced hitters press in these situations, guess at what pitch is coming, and make up their mind to swing before the pitch is delivered.
Longoria looked like an inexperienced hitter when the Rays need their star player to come through for them.
Obviously in the situation Longoria was looking for a “get me over fastball from Capps” and took a healthy cut but got a 86 mph slider that dipped out of the zone.
Time to regroup for Longoria. Certainly he would begin to hit and stop guessing at this point of the plate appearance. At the very least try to get into a hitters count against Capps who still was showing no signs of finding the strike zone. Instead he was even more aggressive flailing at another 89 mph slider that dropped out of the strike zone.
The 3rd pitch was another 89 mph slider that dove out of the strike zone but this time Longoria didn’t offer. With the count 1-2 he finally got the 95 mph fastball in the heart of the plate thigh high but grounded weakly to 3rd to end the inning.
A look at the pitch by pitch sequence to Longoria courtesy Brooksbaseball.net: