Evan Longoria Hits Inside-The-Park Homerun As Rays Beat Orioles, 9-6

The Rays held down the Orioles it today's slugfest in Camden Yards.

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Rays Hold Off Orioles, Longo Runs All Four Base Pads, Rays Win The Series

As noted earlier, Johnny Damon continued his hot streak with a leadoff homerun to get on base in 37 consecutive games. This tied the Rays club record originally held by Ben Grieve and is Damon's career-best. 

The Seventh

The Rays put men on second and third on an error and a double before Kelly Shoppach got a clutch roller in between shortstop and third to score two and put the Rays up 7-3. Johnny Damon then struck out without a double. 

Sean Rodriguez had a few impressive plays with his glove today. Wade Davis left two men on and Adam Russell allowed a single to lead the bases in the seventh. Two shots to shallow right had S-Rod diving and getting the runner at first, once in the back field on a sharp bounce and once bare handed on a trickler. He got the outs, but the score steadily climbed to 7-5.

The Eighth

On one out, Evan Longoria hit an inside-the-park home run scoring two runs after a Ben Zobrist single in the eighth. The ball knuckled around Adam Jones as he dove in mid-shallow center and trickled to the warning track for what should have been an error. Jones caught up to it and tossed it home for a play at the plate as Evan Longoria slid in just ahead of the throw. 

Cesar Ramos pitched the bottom of the eighth and gave up a solo shot to Luke Scott as the slug-fest continued. He would allow a single before S-Rod had yet another web gem: On a soft grounder up the middle he caught the bouncer and gave it a backhand flip with his glove as he tumbled to the infield grass and Reid Brignac (now playing shortstop) was able to catch the soft-toss falling toward right field to get the force out. 

Felix Pie was caught stealing on a perfect throw from Kelly Shoppach. Three runs down, five outs left and you get caught stealing? Juan Cruz got the final out swinging, Rays still lead 9-6.

The Ninth

Kotchman grounded out, Brignac struck out and Shoppach lost his bat into the stands. Camden Yards staff asked for the bat back from the fan who caught it, he said no and the staff made him leave? Poor kid. Shoppach made it on base but Damon flew out to end the Rays campaign.

Juan Cruz stayed in to allow a base runner with no outs before he was pulled. Surprisingly, with a three run lead, the save opportunity was not given to Kyle Farnsworth but former closer J.P. Howell. Since returning from shoulder surgery Howell has pitched poorly in seven games including a blown save against the Mariners on Davis's last start. The rain clouds were rolling in and the pressure was on. 

You could see the wind blow the jerseys of the players and lightning flashes occasionally made it across the field. Luckily, Howell made quick work of the O's with a fly out to left and a double play ground out that skipped off Howell's foot before making it to Brignac. The rain came down hard minutes later and the Rays took the series.

Game Notes

  • Longoria's inside-the-park home run was the ninth in Rays history and the club's first since Carl Crawford's in 2009. Visually the ball was heading for shallow center-right and looked like a routine out for Jones but it suddenly changed direction and spun to Jones's right, just missing his glove as he dove and adjusted.
  • Kelly Shoppach easily could have been overlooked today but performed well with two hits including a two-out RBI that gave the Rays their winning cushion. He had a stellar performance behind the plate which was capitalized by gunning down Felix Pie in the eighth. 
  • Justin Ruggiano continued to swing a hot bat with three hits this afternoon. Only the shortstop position went hitless tonight and five Rays had at least two.
  • Wade Davis (5-5) allowed five runs, four earned, and eight hits and almost lasted seven innings. His control issues continued as he almost let the game slip away with two solo homeruns, but he held Baltimore down as the O's never had the lead. Davis couldn't strikeout more than three but walked only one batter. Better, but not great. He is still unbeaten in Camden Yards. 
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Johnny Damon Ties Club Record, Matusz Doesn't Last Two Innings

With a Lead-off homerun Johnny Damon reached base for the 37th consecutive time to tie the Rays club record set by Ben Grieve in May of 2001. Every day he extend the record will be his career best, and if he does so again Monday the Rays will have a new name in the books.

The First Inning

That was just the start of a text book first inning run by the Rays where all nine batters would make it to the plate. After Damon's homerun, Zobrist and Ruggiano would single to put men on first and third. Longoria sac flied Zobrist in for the first out. 

B.J. Upton then singled to put men on first and second. After a coaching visit to the mound for Brian Matusz, Ruggiano stole third and Upton stole second. Sean Rodriguez singled Ruggy home and (deja vu) men were back on first and second. The Rays then pulled a double steal and I started feeling sorry for Matusz... almost. The Rays had the stopwatches ready in the dugout and noticed the recovering Matusz's slow delivery early. 

Casey Kotchman popped out to shallow second with CF, SS and 2B converging. J.J. Hardy came up with the over-the-shoulder-catch in a near collision and things were looking better for the O's. Elliot Johnson walked the bases loaded, but Kelly Shoppach flew out and the Rays lead 3-0.

Then Wade Davis took the mound... A roller made it past the knee-braced Elliot Johnson before the Rays got a double play at first for two easy outs. Davis then gave up consecutive solo shots over the wall to Adam Jones and Vladimir Guerrero. The curse of the homerun brings the score close again, 3-2.

The Second Inning

Johnny Damon came back to the plate to try to reach the elusive 500 doubles mark but walked instead. Not record breaking, but I'll take it. He was then caught stealing on a bang-bang play that should have gone to the runner and Joe Maddon came out to argue (to no avail). Damon didn't seem upset, but according to the replay he certainly should have been. The Rays proceeded to load the bases on two walks and a single and Brian Matusz was pulled after 80 pitches and 1.1 innings. Ouch.

Upton then towered a fly ball to the left field wall and was feet from a grand slam, but the Rays settled with a sac fly. A ground out ended the top of the inning before Davis returned to the mound to get two strikeouts over three outs. Rays lead 4-2. Nice.

The Third Inning

Casey Kotchman made it around to third on a double and a ground out moved him over. He had an opportunity to take home plate on a wild pitch but stayed at third thinking it was a foul ball. This could have been very frustrating had Damon not singled him in. To get on base safely, Damon hustled hard and beat the throw letting Kotchman score. Kelly Shoppach had walked the at bat previously. Shoppach attempted to advance on another wild pitch, this time by Alfredo Simon. Catcher Craig Tatum got the ball to Mark Reynolds in time. Shoppach tried to stop early and hop over the tag, but no one was fooled. Ben Zobrist then uncharacteristically struck out and the Rays took the field.

After two easy outs and two strikes Davis gave up a towering double to Adam Jones in the right-center gap. He tried to advance on Zobrist's throw and the ball took a short hop to ricochet off Evan Longoria's glove on the Sean Rodriguez relay. Wade Davis was there to back up Longo but the ball flew into the stands allowing Jones to advance home. 

The Fourth - Sixth

The score remains quiet at 5-3. Davis has allowed six hits through six innings and collected three strikeouts thus far and will likely pitch the seventh.

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Wade Davis, Johnny Damon Hope To Best Baltimore In Camden Yards

Look out OriolesWade Davis has never lost in Camden Yards. It's currently raining, but let's hope the tarps get pulled back so the Rays can take the field!

The Good: When in Maryland, Davis has pitched to the tune of a 2.67 ERA with a complete shut out in 2009. Unfortunately, that is not the Wade Davis we have seen lately. In April he was stellar, posting a 2.73 ERA over five games with three wins. 

The Rays then brought the spotlight to Davis when they signed him to $36 mil through 2017 early in the season. April was a gem, but many baseball writers were skeptical he could keep it up. Warning signs of a new approach on the mound creeped in. His strike outs were down, his home runs and walks allowed were climbing and his velocity was dropping. Davis was slowly losing sight of the strike zone and the paranoia was not unwarranted. 

The Bad: Since May he has pitched seven games to ~6.50 ERA. Although his strikeout rate has been consistent, he's given up nineteen walks and nine homeruns. April saw only one homerun and eleven walks. But, of course, there is hope! From our Rays affiliate DRaysBay on his last start in Seattle:

"Wade Davis was better today [and] he took some steps in the right direction. His pitch location left something to be desired - he left too many pitches over the plate, and missed high in the zone way too often - but he got a lot more swinging strikes than in any of his recent starts (8, or 7.4%). He also only allowed five hits and one walk over 7 innings, but unfortunately those baserunners all came clumped together and almost all scored.

OK, so maybe that's not terribly optimistic, but any step forward is better than backward and this afternoon Davis has the chance to return to form. Camden Yards has been kind to him, and the Rays are desperate for another win. Tampa is 4.0 games back in the AL East, which is a very small mountain to climb, and Davis is excited to be in Baltimore. From mlb.com:

"I've always like pitching here," Davis said. "I've always liked it here. Good field. Good mound. Good atmosphere. Some [mounds] feel closer, some feel higher."

But does he love the temperature? Sunday should be sweltering, and the forecast also calls for scattered thunderstorms...

The Rays will face the young Brian Matusz on his return from the disabled list. He pitched well early in the season, but was sidelined after only one win. It's unlikely he can replicate his sub-3.00 ERA on his return, but the Rays will be ready for the hard-to-beat lefty.

The hopefully-not-injured Matt Joyce will still be out of the lineup today, but Joe Maddon was planning on giving Joyce off today anyway. According to Marc Topkin, given Joyce's shoulder and the Tigers throwing LHP Phil Coke Monday, it's possible Joyce could be out of the lineup until the three game series against the Red Sox who will start three righties in St. Pete: Tim Wakefield, Josh Beckett and Clay Buchholz.

Player Notes

Justin Ruggiano, who is hitting .421 over his last five games will make a sixth straight start in the No. 3 hole. Elliot Johnson will also return from the DL today at short stop. Longoria who finally looked like himself last night with three hits and three RBI's will bat clean-up. The Lineup: 

Damon, DH
Zobrist, RF
Ruggiano, LF
Longoria, 3B
Upton, CF
Rodriguez, 2B
Kotchman, 1B
Johnson, SS
Shoppach, C

Most Importantly

Johnny Damon is approaching a few big achievements. He has reached base 36 consecutive games (his career best) and is one short of Ben Grieve's club record set back in 2001. Additionally, Damon recently tied Al Kaline and Bill Buckner for 54th all-time with 498 doubles. He needs a mere two more doubles to become the 11th player of all-time with 500 doubles, 100 triples, 200 home runs and 2,500 hits.

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