Will Rays And Tigers Feud Continue In 2014?
The Tampa Bay Rays and Detroit Tigers series s at Tropicana field was played the weekend of June 28th through June 30th produced fireworks between the two teams sparked by an exuberant Miguel Cabrera, flames thrown after an inside pitch located up and in to Cabrera by Rodney, and a retaliatory hit by pitch of Ben Zobrist by Tigers starter Rick Porcello.
The Rays and Tigers meet again for the first time in 2014 over the Fourth of July weekend in Detroit and from August 19 through 21st at Tropicana Field could the two teams resume where they left off in 2013?
The Tigers entered the series owning the Rays in recent history taking 15 of the last 19 games leading Manager Joe Maddon to say before the series, “We’ve got to start beating these guys.”
Unfortunately, the first game of the series did not go the Rays way as Max Scherzer improved to 12-0 tossing 7 innings allowing 3 earned runs.
He was backed by the powerful duo of Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder who combined to go 6 for 7 with 5 runs scored and drove in 5 runs.
On Saturday night the two teams were tied at three apiece entering the top of the tenth inning. Fernando Rodney remained in the game for his second inning of work and the first batter he faced was none other than Miguel Cabrera. After jumping ahead two strikes he threw a fastball that touched 100 mph but was high and outside of the strike zone escaping catcher Jose Molina and sailed back to the backstop.
His next pitch was a 98-mph fastball that tracked up and in on Cabrera but did not hit him. After showing two straight fastballs he came back with an 86-mph change up that Cabrera swung over to strikeout. On his way back to the dugout Cabrera and Rodney exchanged words and Cabrera continued the dialogue throughout the remainder of the inning.
Bruce Rondon came in to work the bottom of the 10th for the Tigers. With two outs in the inning the Rays had runners at 2nd and 3rd for Yunel Escobar who drove the ball over Austin Jackson‘s head for the game winning walk-off hit.
After the game Joe Maddon and the Rays were jubilant about their victory while all Tigers manager Jim Leyland wanted to talk about was Fernando Rodney.
“I don’t care about a guy throwing inside, that’s part of the art of pitching. But not upstairs in the head area. That’s unacceptable. We will not tolerate that. Against anybody. Not upstairs. And you can take that to the bank. And I don’t want to hear that stuff about ‘the ball got away.’ he has pitched long enough that they don’t ‘get away.’
“I’m not saying he was throwing at him. What he did tonight, up in that area, that’s just not acceptable. And there’s a price to pay for that. If you’re going to pitch inside, you’ve got to be careful that it’s not in the head area. There’s no free lunch in baseball. When somebody starts doing that stuff, somebody pays a price for it.”
After Leyland’s comments after Saturday evenings loss their was a tenseness in the air as to whether or not the Tigers would retaliate for a player almost getting hit. As silly as that sounds that’s just what happened when with 2-out in the first inning Rick Porcello came up and in and hit Ben Zobrist who threw his hands up and took the pitch on the back of his wrist.
In his career Porcello had hit 11 left handed hitters in 772.2 innings when he plunked Zobrist. It would be the only left handed batter that he’d hit in his 177 innings in 2013.
The league office suspended Porcello for six games for hitting Zobrist but that was knocked down to five games on appeal. As luck would have it for the Tigers he began his suspension after his last start prior to the All-Star Break. Since he wasn’t slated to pitch any of the last four games before the All-Star break, he’d have to miss only the first game after the break, when Detroit was able to adjust its rotation anyway.
The Rays were playing to win and while everyone expected Miguel Cabrera to get hit for retaliation when he stepped up in the fourth inning he was not – instead he delivered a monster home run that landed in the Rays tank in center field.
With Miguel Cabrera due to lead off the 8th inning everyone expected Joel Peralta to enter the game but Joe Maddon elected to send Kyle Farnsworth to the mound. It certainly seemed like an odd move as Cabrera had a .470 (8 for 17) career batting average against Farnsworth.
Was Farnsworth in the game to seek retaliation against Cabrera and the Tigers despite it being just a 2-run game? Apparently not, Farnsworth pitched to Cabrera and forced him to line out to third baseman Kelly Johnson. It would be the only batter that Farnsworth faced as he was immediately replaced by Joel Peralta.
Fernando Rodney came in to shut the door in the ninth getting Brayan Pena to pop out to childhood friend Yunel Escobar giving the Rays their first series victory over the Tigers since Aug. 9-11, 2010, at Comerica Park, and the first at Tropicana Field since July 26-29, 2010.
After the game Ben Zobrist said of Miguel Cabrera “for being the best hitter in the world he’s a little sensitive” and Joe Maddon said of Cabrera “He’s wonderful, I just wish he wouldn’t cry so much.”
Fernando Rodney and Jim Leyland may be gone but their could still be some residuals between Miguel Cabrera and the Rays.