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Jeff Niemann, Rays Offense Are Alive!

Now, hell might be similar to Trivia Night at Duffy's.* Thank the Lord I had the Rays game as my solace.

As the Yankees and Red Sox battle it out, the Rays are playing the moneyball-original Oakland Athletics. Small market meets small market. Both teams love sabermetrics, so I love the match up. This game has a lot of hype for me, the Rays were mightily embarrassed by Oakland on the road and now they have a chance to answer. And boy did they answer.

First off, Jeff Niemann was phenomenal. Since his return from the Disabled List and adjusting his release point, Niemann boasts a 2.26 ERA with a 5-0 record. He went eight and two-thirds innings and might of finished the game, had he not been at 119 pitches. On the night he allowed 4 ER, and well said by our Rays affiliate DRaysBay: "Niemann has been the Nyquil of old, lulling hitters to sleep with that sneaky-fast 92 MPH fastball and an assortment of offspeed treasures." (Actually, it's hard to compete with the hilarious CBJones, so his recap is well worth a read.)

Secondly, the Rays continued to swing a hot bat. The Rays topped the White Elephants 8-4. There was no score through the first four innings until two walks (Zobrist, Joyce) and Upton singled to load the bases. Robinson Chirinos then grounded out for an RBI and the Rays led 1-0. 

Bottom five: Damon single, Longoria doubled him in, Kotchman doubled Longo in and the A's pulled Guillermo Moscoso (4.2 IP, 6 H, 3 BB, 4 ER). In the sixth Coco Crisp had a two run homer to get his team on the board, but the Rays answered with three more runs of their own thanks to RBI singles by Zobrist and Upton. 

Upton tripled Zobrist home later in the eighth to make the lead 8-2. Niemann didn't have the stuff for the ninth and allowed a HR and two hits before Kyle Farnsworth closed the door with the final out. Farns doesn't get a save there, because that would make an arbitrary statistic sound reasonable. 

As of Wednesday, and for the first time this season, I have been excited to watch the Rays offense. The Rays have been a boring team to watch through the first half, but the rise of rookies has ignited the offense and the veterans are hitting their stride.

Ben Zobrist and Casey Kotchman acted normal tonight, which scores runs. Zorilla (2-4, walk, 3 runs, 2 RBI) was particularly in the zone. Damon acted young and scored both times he got on base. B.J. Upton was fantastic, going 3-3 with two walks (walk, single, walk, single, triple) and might be reaching a hot streak. 

The Rays have two more left against the A's, then host four against Kansas City. After that, three at New York and three at Boston. The Rays are 9 games back in the east and held off the Toronto. From here on out, they control their own destiny.


*I'm working a summer job in Boca Raton and staying with family friends. Their family meets weekly at a sports bar after the nephews finish football practice each friday night. All drinks are two-for-one, so it's fun for everyone. The football team gets a room with a couple TVs, the 10 year olds watch MMA and baseball, so we had the Rays game among the many TVs. What's terrible about all that? 

What's happening at the bar: "What basketball player has graced the cover of Sports Illustrated more than any player?" (Mambo #5) "Not Dwayne Wade, not Kobe Byant, but Michael Jordan! What band wrote an autobiography called 'Stairway to Heaven'?" (Walking on Sunshine) "Not the Eagles, not ACDC, but Led Zepplin! What reggae artist died in 1981?" (Say Hey - ugh) "Bob Marley! Who is the head coach at Alabama?" (Sweet Home Alabama) Shoot me now. 

Photographs by, thelastminute, turtlemom nancy , fesek, kthypryn, justinwright, sue_elias, pointnshoot, and scrapstothefuture used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.