The focus of this game is going to be on the umpires and on one play in particular: the one where Justin Ruggiano appeared safe but was called out at the plate. The Rays were trailing 1-0 at the time, but later tied the game before losing 2-1 in extra innings. There isn’t a lot for me to say about the play that people don’t already know. Ruggiano was safe, the umpire got it wrong—horribly wrong—and because baseball clings to tradition, there was no replay or means to correct a potential game-changing mistake.
I try to take the positive whenever possible, and so I will devote some space to Ruggiano’s game. Coming through the minors, he had a reputation as someone with attitude issues—his minor league teammates even called him Scrooge—and at times, his hustle has been questioned. Tonight, though, Ruggiano hustled his tail off on a few plays.
Prior to the play at the plate, Ruggiano was on first base with B.J. Upton up. Upton hit a ball to third that Danny Worth had issues with. With the ball ricocheting into the outfield, Ruggiano not only advanced to second, but took third too—allowing Upton to move up to second base and set up an intentional walk situation with Matt Joyce due up. Later on, Ruggiano made a questionable decision to dive on an Alex Avila liner, but recovered in a quick enough manner to hold the hard-charging Avila to a double rather than a triple.
The guy has taken his lumps before—remember when he didn’t dive for a ball back in 2008?—but give him credit for persevering and being in position to take this opportunity.
Alex Cobb went 5 2/3 innings, struck out seven, walked a pair, and allowed one earned run against a team with a few pretty good hitters. Cobb might be the guy going for a returning Jeff Niemann, but he has a future in the majors—believe that.
Johnny Damon reached base for the 38th-straight game, thus setting a new franchise record in place of Ben Grieve. Put it this way: The last time Damon failed to reach base came on the day Cobb made his major league debut.