The Tampa Bay Rays have taken their fans on a roller coaster season with some dramatic wins and a slew of dramatic losses. All season long, even while winning, they seemed to lose in a dramatic fashion dampening the positive momentum that a fan base usually feels during a 91 win season.
On Sunday afternoon the Rays defeated the Toronto Blue Jays by a final score of 7-6 in a game that much like their season tested the fans emotions and even in the sweet celebration of victory there was an odd odor left behind.
The Cleveland Indians win catupulted them to the top wild card spot and they will host that game on Wednesday evening. The Rays win coupled with the Rangers victory over the Los Angeles Angels sets up a 1-game playoff for the right to travel to Cleveland between the Texas Rangers and Rays in Arlington tomorrow evening at 8:07 p.m.
The game got off to the best start that could be desired as five of the first seven hitters reached base against Jays starter Mark Redmond (4-3, 3.52 ERA).
Wagner did not fare much better than Redmond and was greeted by a 2-RBI double off the bat of Jose Lobaton to give the Rays a 5-0 lead. Yunel Escosbar plated Lobaton with a single but was thrown out trying to stretch his hit into a double.
Matt Moore (17-4, 3.29 ERA) sat a long time while the Rays pushed across 6 runs in the first inning, something he’d gladly do in any start, and was sketchy as he danced his way through the first inning.
He walked three Blue Jays hitters in the first inning but was able to erase one on a double play ball and struck out Mark DeRosa with 2-out and 2-on.
After the first inning Moore settled in retiring 13 of the next 15 Jays batters and received an additional run of support on a Wil Myers RBI double in the top of the 4th to put the Rays up 7-0.
When a team has a 7-0 lead after 5 innings with one of their best pitchers on the mound facing a lineup of who’s who of Triple A and “I had no idea he was even around anymore” in a game 162 there should not be any tense moments as the game winds down but these are the 2013 Rays, therefore, nothing comes easy.
Rays fans were riding a positive crest of emotion as Moore had a 7-0 lead and was cruising along with 1-out into the 6th inning but the Jays mounted a rally and cut the lead to 7-3.
Brett Lawrie and Moises Sierra delivered back to back singles and came into score on Mark DeRosa’s 2-RBI double. DeRosa advanced to 3rd on a Ryan Langerhans single which ended Matt Moore’s night and came in to score as Jake McGee allowed a sacrifice fly off the bat of J.P. Arencibia.
The remainder of the game was wrought with tension. McGee remained in the game to start the 7th and retired Kevin Pillar to begin the inning but then gave up a single to Jose Reyes and walked Anthony Gose. Brett Lawrie cut the Rays lead to 7-4 with a RBI double scoring Reyes and moving Gose to 3rd.
Jake McGee’s day was finished and he was replaced by Joel Peralta who walked Moises Sierra to load the bases. Joe Maddon took exception to home plate umpire Paul Schrieber’s strike zone. After a brief meeting on the mound with Peralta and catcher Jose Lobaton Schrieber came out to break up the conference and Maddon must have said the the magic words that led to his immediate ejection from the game. It was his 5th ejection of the season and extended his franchise record of being ejected to 32 times.
The Jays had the bases loaded and were 1-hit from tying the game. Adam Lind came in to pinch hit for Mark DeRosa. Lind hit a ground ball right up the middle but the Rays had him played perfectly. Yunel Escobar fielded the ball, ran to second base, and threw on to first. James Loney had to keep his foot on the bag and dig the ball out of the dirt to complete the double play in what will be considered one of the more important defensive gems the Rays turned all season.
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The Jays weren’t deflated and after retiring the Rays in order in the top of the 8th went right back to work against Peralta. Ryan Langerhans led off with a walk but Peralta came back and retired the next two hitters before allowing a single to Kevin Pillar.
Fernando Rodney was called upon to protect the Rays 7-4 lead and get the final 4-outs to secure the victory. Rodney was not sharp as he allowed an RBI singles to Jose Reyes and Ryan Langerhans which pulled the Jays to within a run at 7-6. He walked Brett Lawrie and the Jays once again had the bases loaded with a chance to take the lead but Rodney struck out Moises Sierra swinging to end the inning.
The Rays were retired quickly in the top of the 9th and the Jays had one more opportunity to play the role of spoiler against the shaky Rays closer.
He didn’t help the collective stomachs of the fan base when he walked the tying run to lead off the inning. In what could be considered and odd move with expanded rosters in September John Gibbons chose to pinch run pitcher Esmil Rogers for Adam Lind. Rogers was quickly erased on a Ryan Langerhans ground ball that James Loney fielded and fired to Yunel Escobar covering second.