Jeremy Hellickson pitched okay against Minnesota. His final line included three strikeouts, two walks, four earned runs, six hits, and a home run in seven innings of work (he threw 97 pitches). The Rays lost the lead for good in the fifth inning as the Twins scored three, but it’s hard to place blame solely on Hellickson as his defense let him down.
B.J. Upton’s attempt at cutting off a ball ended with the ball deflecting off his glove –allowing Michael Cuddyer to reach second), Kelly Shoppach threw a ball into center as Elliot Johnson was more concerned about applying a tag than securing the ball, and Ben Zobrist’s diving attempt at a ball failed. It wouldn’t be the last time E. Johnson took center stage for a defensive misstep, as later in the game he could not catch a roof-scraping pop fl, although ultimately that single proved moot.
The Rays offense got off to a good start, with Sam Fuld recording a leadoff single. Johnny Damon then laid down a bunt. While Damon came close to beating it out, it’s hard to say whether he had sacrifice intentions or not. If he did, it’s a silly play: Playing for one run in the first inning is rarely a good idea. If the Rays are going to do it, at least let Fuld swipe second base, so there would be a runner on third with one out and not –as it resulted—a runner on third with two outs.
Naturally, the Rays failed to plate Fuld.
Damon later attempted another bunt, with runner on the corners, but the ball hit his hand. Damon would stay in and record a single, but he would leave the game with a bruised finger, although he is classified as day-to-day.
Cesar Ramos entered with runners on second and third and one out. He’d get Matt Tolbert to ground out to second base (with the infield in) and then struck out Alex Casilla. It’s one of those performances that go unnoticed should the team lose (and the Rays did), but would have loomed large in the event of the Rays tying or winning the game.
I would be remiss if I didn’t recognize Sean Rodriguez’s game. The first play of the game saw him range to his right, backhand a grounder, and throw the runner on effortlessly. Deeper into the game, he made a diving backhand grab on a liner up the middle. Rodriguez also handled the aforementioned Ramos grounder well, as he looked the runner back before throwing to first. And the list goes on.
Nobody should question whether Rodriguez can play second base. He can. He just has to handle righties better. If Rodriguez were a lefty he would be one of the more talked about second basemen in baseball. Instead, he is a well-kept secret and situational weapon against left-handed pitchers. Again Brian Duensing, Rodriguez hit a ball deep into center (that Jason Repko of all people dove to catch) and a triple into right. He wasn’t as lucky with Matt Capps, as he flew out harmlessly to Delmon Young.
Speaking of that ninth inning, if I had my druthers, Reid Brignac would have batted in place of Sean Rodriguez or Elliot Johnson. Having to insert Matt Joyce as Damon’s injury replacement and using John Jaso to pinch run for Kelly Shoppach zapped the Rays possibilities, as the only other bench player was Casey Kotchman.