An RBI double from Evan Longoria and a two run homerun from Matt Joyce were all the Rays could muster in Game One against the St. Louis Cardinals. And that was in the bottom of the eighth. Until that point the Rays had gone scoreless and the game reached a boiling point with J.P. Howell on the mound.
After seven innings the game stood 2-0 in St. Louis's favor. Howell came into the game with a rough season on his back and an 8.44 ERA. Barely a month returned from over a season on the Disabled List, Howell is looking to earn the respect of the management and return to prowess. He took the mound in relief of Wade Davis, who'd had a third terrific start in a row, guns blazing. He sat the first two men without difficulty.
Then, with Lance Berkman batting and a 2-2 count, Howell pitched what looked to be the inning ending strike three. Observe:
See that green dot in the bottom of the strike zone? That'd be what home plate umpire Vic Carapazza called Ball Three. Joe Maddon was quick to argue and from the dug out earned his 21st career ejection after Berkman walked on Ball Four.
Howell then continued to struggle with the erratic strike zone from the Triple-A call-up umpire (did I forget to mention that?) as he walked David Freese. Howell was increasingly agitated and it proved to be too much for him, starting with a balk before walking Freese. Colby Rasmus then came to the plate and drove a three-run homer around the foul pole in right for the Red Birds to take the lead 5-0.
Before Ramus was even across home plate, Howell had to be physically restrained by the catcher John Jaso and bench coach/acting manager Dave Martinez, including this freak-out. Howell threw his glove then swatted away and spiked the baseball from the umpire, requiring a new one. Carapazza tried to ignore him, but he'd reached his limit when Howell demanded a new ball.
From our Rays affiliate DRaysBay: "It's easy to understand Howell's rage in that situation. I know there are some of you that have been overly critical of Howell this season, but he should have been out of the inning unscathed. Instead the deficit jumped from an in reach two runs, to a seemingly out of reach five... It's tough enough when it's an established veteran umpire, but when its someone out of his element the knife cuts a bit deeper. Should Howell be excused for the three run home run? Probably not. But it shouldn't of come to that in the first place."
Defending their team mate and also upset with the strike zone, David Price and Elliott Johnson were each ejected from the dugout for arguing as well. Price would tell mlb.com there was no cursing or name-calling involved, but they were shown the door regardless.
Longo and Joyce put the Rays on the board with three runs shortly after, but it was not enough and the Rays dropped Game One.
- The Rays could lead any other division in baseball with their record and are very much in the Playoff hunt facing the NL Central leading Cardinals and the Trop was only at 55% capacity with 19,934 in attendance. That's painful. The time has certainly come for the Rays to move near their fanbase. If you haven't read, DRaysBay has begun a Stadium Proposal that is well worth your time. Check out the first three portions on the Location, Design, and Funding Solutions.
- Wade Davis pitched quietly today allowing only two runs on six hits... and only three strikeouts. But DRaysBay was looking on the bright side: "Davis pitched pretty well. He recovered from a bumpy start to throw just 92 pitches over seven innings. The curveball was excellent tonight, throwing it 20 times for 14 strikes. He only recorded three strikeouts, but each came on a fastball that Davis put a little extra juice on, hitting 94mph in the strikeout of Jon Jay. That has been Davis' plan this season -- get ahead and then pump it up to 94 -- but it's far easier said than done when you lack a plus third pitch. This marks the third quality start in a row for Davis. And I don't mean that in the 6IP and less than 3ER sense. He's allowed 1, 1, and 2 earned runs over his last three starts, albeit they've all come against National League teams. In his last three starts against American League teams he's allowed 4,5, and 7 earned runs. Hopefully he gained some confidence from these strong starts and can carry that over when he faces the AL again."
- Oh, and Super Sam Fuld had yet another diving catch in left field. If that's not incentive, follow the link for a cheesy pun from Dwayne Staats!