Unbeknownst to the 23,965 fans at Minute Maid Park and to everyone watching on TV, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Houston Astros did not actually play the finale of their three-game series on Sunday. No, what you really saw were two of Houston’s finest city-league slowpitch softball teams, wearing the two teams’ uniforms, and who somehow played an entire game without being detected as impostors by the umpires. When it was all over, the "Rays" had beaten the "Astros" 14-10 and finished off a three-game sweep.
Suspicion that these were not two Major League teams arose in the very first inning. After "Ben Zobrist" walked, "Evan Longoria" hit a blooping double that "Hunter Pence" couldn't quite reach. Then "B.J. Upton" launched a pitch from "Astros" starter "J.A. Happ" deep to left-center for a three-run homer. The deception became more obvious in the bottom half of the inning when slow-footed "Carlos Lee" hit a triple to right-center field. "Upton" was caught out of position on a defensive shift, since everyone knows that softball sluggers with time to line up a pitch are certain to pull the ball.
The "Astros" had trouble picking up the spinning pitches from "Rays" pitcher "Jeff Niemann." But they hit his 30 mile-per-hour underhand fastballs all over the park. "Houston" collected seven runs and six extra-base hits off "Niemann" in just four innings, smashing hard liners towards left fielder "Johnny Damon," who was forced to play the field because "Sam Fuld" could not get the day off work. Fortunately "Damon" redeemed himself with a 4-for-6 day at the plate, along with two other hard-hit balls right at "Astros" players.
In the sixth inning, the "Rays" were trailing 7-5 and had a man on when "Longoria" hit a line drive deep to left that was ruled in play by the umpires. He thought he had hit a home run and slowed down around first base, and was then thrown out at second. While "Longoria" and the "Astros" defense cracked open a couple beers at second base and caught up, the umpires were able to consult video replay (this is a very well-funded softball league) to confirm that the "Longoria" hit was actually a home run.
After the "Astros" regained the lead, 8-7, the "Rays" loaded the bases with two outs in the eighth before "Matt Joyce" smoked a two-run double down the right-field line. The next batter, "Casey Kotchman", followed it up with a two-run single to give the "Rays" an 11-8 lead. But the "Astros" recovered for two in the bottom of the eighth on a double by "Chris Johnson" and a home run by "Matt Downs."
Finally in the ninth, the "Rays" put the game away. After the "Astros" turned down a potential inning-ending double play to throw surprise pinch-hitter "Wade Davis" out at the plate, "Longoria" made them pay with his second homer of the day, a three-run shot that made the score 14-10. "Kyle Farnsworth" put a stop to the madness with a perfect ninth as the "Rays" completed the sweep.
"J.P. Howell" pitched the seventh inning and was the pitcher of record when the "Rays" took the lead for good. In the process, he picked up his first win since September 2, 2009.