Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Rays Win Series as BJ Steals the Show

It was the final game of a four game series between the 14-24 Cleveland Indians and the 18-20 Tampa Bay Rays.  There was a hint of trouble in the air stemming from an altercation that had the blogosphere drawing a line in the sand between the "old school rules" guys and the "you play to win the game" guys.  The problem stemmed from game one of the series, a Thursday night game.  The Indians had jumped out to a comfortable 9-0 lead after their half of  the sixth inning.  BJ Upton would draw a lead off walk off of Indians starter Fausto Carmona and immediately steal second, much to the chagrin of Indian catcher Victor Martinez.  If Martinez was irked at BJ's seemingly disinterest in the unwritten rules of baseball etiquettte by stealing second base down by 9, he was enraged after BJ stole 3rd base.  (BJ stolen base video link).

Maybe BJ's hustle woke up the dormant Rays bats or maybe they rattled Indians starter Fausto Carmona, because the Rays would go on to put up 6 runs in the bottom of the sixth inning to trail only by 3 at 9-6.  The Indians would go on to win the game but they seemed overly bothered by the BJ hustle.
After the game Indians catcher Victor Martinez would say "They've got to show respect to get respect," Cleveland catcher Victor Martinez said Sunday. "You don't see nobody (expletive) stealing 9-0 in the sixth or seventh inning."
If there was trouble brewing on Thursday night between the Indians and Rays, then Friday's nights game added fuel to the fire as BJ Upton would hit a leadoff double with the Rays down 7-0 in the fourth and promptly stole third.  Then, JP Howell threw a pitch upstairs to Martinez who immediately barked out to JP but after the game said that he didn't feel the pitch was intentional.   The Rays would eventually complete the teams biggest comeback in Tampa Bay Rays history thanks to a  walk off home run by BJ Upton off of just called up Indians reliever Luis Vizcaino.  BJ seemed to enjoy his trot around the bases (video) maybe a little too much for the liking of the Cleveland Indians, specifically catcher Victor Martinez  (game recap video here).

After the game BJ would say that even down 7-0 he felt the Rays were going to come back
"You could see it in guys’ eyes, we don’t stop playing. The energy was still up in the dugout,” Upton added. “There was a lot of game left.”--Yahoo Sports
The Indians bats would go silent in the third game of the series but BJ Upton would put the Rays on the board with a solo shot off Indian starter Carl Pavano (video) en route to a 4-2 Rays victory.  The game was close enough to keep the simmering to just below a boil, but there was always the opportunity for the Indians to deliver a message to BJ on Sunday.  An opportunity that the Indians would not pass up. 

The final game of the Indians vs Rays series was an odd game all the way around.  David Huff was making his big league debut but had to wait through a lengthy delay before delivering his first pitch.  Rays manager Joe Maddon would put Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria both at 3b in his lineup card.  Zobrist played the field in the top of the first, which meant he would be the Rays 3b that day.  Indians manager Eric Wedge caught the mistake and  the umpires met for 13 minutes before determining that Tampa Bay would lose their DH and be forced to bat Andy Sonnanstine in the 3rd position and Evan Longoria would have to take a seat on the bench.  Sonnanstine would enjoy his day at the plate going 2-4 with a run scoring double.  He would also pitch 5.2 innings and earn the victory as the Rays would win the game 7-5.  The game would feature a blown call by the umpiring crew, and a great acting job by Carl Crawford in the top of the 8th inning, which may of also intensified the Indians frustration (video).   A bright spot for the Indians was outfielder Ben Francisco who would homer twice off Andy Sonnanstine.  Francisco's career line against Sonnanstine after Sunday's affair was 6-7 with 4 home runs, a double, and a walk. 

The bottom of the eighth inning is where things get interesting.  The Rays were up 7-5 and Indians reliever Matt Herges sandwiches a walk between two strike outs.  With a man at first and two outs in the inning, Indians manager Eric Wedge goes to the bullpen to bring in closer Kerry Wood to face BJ Upton.  Woods first pitch to BJ was an 89 mph fastball right behind Upton that sailed all the way to the screen.  Woods second pitch wasn't quite as blatant, a fastball that bore down around BJ's knees.  Joe Maddon was chirping from the Rays dugout and Victor Martinez took exception to what was being said and yelled back.  Carl Crawford was the first guy out of the dugout, pointing a finger in the face of Martinez and then heading directly out toward Kerry Wood.  Both benches would clear and order would be restored quickly.  In the top of the ninth inning, Rays closer Troy Percival would hit Mark DeRosa with an 0-2 pitch before retiring the next three Indians in order to pick up his sixth save as the Rays would take 3 out of 4 from the Indians.  BJ Upton would finish the crazy series with a slash line of .250/.368/.688 with a 2b, two homeruns, 5 runs, and 5 stolen bases.

Some closing remarks from the managers and players care of (link) and (link):
  • "From the get-go, it felt like one of those days. You just knew something wasn't right," Upton said. "The more I think about it, bringing the closer in to get one more out, it probably should have been heads up in the box anyway. It's over with, and we move on."
  • Eric Wedge denies throwing at BJ - "We got Kerry Wood out there because he hasn't pitched in three days, and I figured if we could tie it or take the lead, we can run him one-plus [inning],"
  • Troy Percival on hitting DeRosa - "I'm not going to put a game on the line in that situation. I'm not going to hit him [intentionally],"
  • Troy Percival on Woods' pitch to BJ - "I know they were trying to send a message. "That's fine, but you send a message the next at-bat. Or you send a message with the guy that's on the mound. You don't bring a guy in throwing 97 with two outs in the last inning. Now you're saying, 'Look, we're not sending a message, we're trying to hurt you.' There's a big difference."
  • Joe Maddon on Woods' pitch to BJ - "After the first pitch I looked out at B.J. and said, 'Was that behind you?' I could see him mouth back to me, 'Yes.' At that point, it was too late for me to react," "The next pitch was not too late for me to react. "It was blatant. And you cannot let a blatant situation go any further. I want to let our players know that the staff is going to support them all of the time. That's the right thing to do from a manager's perspective."
  • Victor Martinez on BJ and the Rays - "He (Joe Maddon) was yelling at me, saying throw the ball over the plate. He has to worry about teaching his (expletive) players to play the game the right way," "Now he's getting mad because he's getting one of his players thrown at? He better worry about teaching them to play the game the right way first."

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