Oh, Grant. How can I truly express my gratitude? You came into Sunday’s game in the eighth with your Rays leading the Yankees 3-1. You allowed singles to Damon and Tex and then you walked A-Rod to load the bases. You opened the door. You gave me hope. You even entertained me with your cursing. (Yes, Grant. I read lips.)
More thanks to…
I owe you so much, James Phillip. You relieved (so to speak) Balfour by walking Cano and forcing in a run. What a thrill for me to watch Damon trotting home and pulling my team to within 3-2. My goodness. You made it possible for me to believe in miracles.
But I’ve saved my biggest thank you for…
Willy, Willy. Willy. You are such a wonderful, generous person. Why else would you boot Posada’s routine double play ball and not even attempt to throw any runners out? More importantly, you not only let the Yankees tie the score, but it was your error that led the way for Matsui’s go-ahead chopper. Wow. I will never forget this, I swear.
I don’t mean to suggest that the Yankees did nothing in their own behalf to beat the Rays 4-3. The win may have been the Rays’ gift to us, but we didn’t just sit there snoozing like some lazy guy on a Sunday afternoon.
Joba pitched well.
Swisher went deep.
A-rod flashed leather.
Aceves: struck out four.
And Mo was Mo with a 1-2-3 dismissal of the Rays in the ninth.
Wait. There was also Melky’s run-saving catch of Zobrist’s liner in the sixth. OMG. Talk about a great dive! Talk about a great route to the ball! Talk about….Well, just watch.
OK, we didn’t exactly crush the Rays. We kind of beat them and they kind of beat themselves. But a win is a win, and I’ll take it.
What a ridiculous ninth inning if you’re the Rays. For six-plus innings your offense is stymied by geezer Jamie Moyer, who shows his age by sticking his tongue out at you.
Then you get back into the game when your very own cartoon character, B.J. Upton, steals two bases and ties the score.
All the momentum is on your side going into the bottom of the ninth, and yet what do you do? You sit there stunned as
Howell hits someone named Eric Bruntlett. Then you hide your eyes as
Balfour hurls a wild pitch and
Navarro makes a crazy throw way wide of second.
Then Maddon says, “Walk the bases loaded with nobody out”
so that the Phillies catcher Carlos Ruiz can hit a squibber to third that Longoria spazzes out on, scoring Bruntlett and leading to this.
Yes, you lost a tough one in Philly, Cinderella boys. Let’s see if you can pull yourselves together tomorrow night. Sleep well.
Wow. Talk about a meltdown. Which of these men were to blame for allowing the Red Sox to live another day?
Correct answer? All three of them. Nice fat pitch to Ortiz, Balfour! Way to groove one to Drew, Wheels! Congrats on that walkoff to blow the game, Howell! You all belong in the choker’s hall of shame.
But there’s another person who deserves mention here.
Yes, you, Mr. Maddon. Crafty move starting Kazmir, but what were you thinking when you pulled him after six innings? So what if he’d thrown over 100 pitches and sat in the dugout for 31 minutes? He had a two-hit shutout going. Plus, you must have noticed Balfour wasn’t exactly lights out and yet you left him in to pitch to Ortiz instead of calling for a lefty? I know. I’m such a second guesser. But the Rays had the American League pennant sewn up. You realize that, right?
I congratulate Red Sox fans (the ones that didn’t leave Fenway when the score was 7-0) on their team’s latest miraculous comeback. It brings back painful memories of ’04, but I’m trying not to go there.
First of all, I hate being on the sidelines and writing about other team’s successes. But if any team deserves to be written about, it’s the Rays. Here’s why.
* They finally managed to fill up the Trop today! Did you see all those people banging on their cowbells? Where were they all summer? Up north, I know. Well, it was sweet of them to lock up their real houses, come on down to their Florida condos and take in a little baseball.
* Evan Longorio hit two homers. The guy is in his first major league season, and yet look how well he performs on the big stage. There should be no further discussion about who is more famous…..
* The Rays can now claim that they, too, have a high-strung (okay, looney) reliever in the grand tradition of Al “The Mad Hungarian” Hrabosky and Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams. The minute he had words with Orlando Cabrera, I thought, Yup. He needs a nickname.
And so I’m calling him Grant “The Mad Australian” Balfour.
* The Rays beat the White Sox in spite of losing Carlos Pena early in the game. Pena’s problem? Blurry left eye. Apparently, he scratched it at home last night. But do we believe that story or do we think his hand slipped while he was….
Yes, even professional ballplayers yawn. Not every game is a nail-biter, plus they stay up way past their bedtimes.