Saturday, April 23, 2011

Back to Back to Back Plays Cost the Bay Rays A Game

Jose Bautista had a legendary game. Bautista hit a triple, a double and a homer and went three for three with two walks and four runs scored. The Blue Jays' best player certainly helped win the game for the Blue Jays. Those last two walks cost him the cycle as all he needed was a single. But it was that first walk and his luck that followed that cost the Bay Rays the game and turned things around for the Blue Jays.

The Toronto crowd was on their feet when Bautista came up in the eighth inning. Not only was the hometown crowd hoping Bautista would do something about the 4-3 deficit that Blue Jays faced, but they knew he just needed a single. But as @TaoofStieb said on Twitter, they would have gladly traded the single for a patented JoBau homer. They got neither. Joel Peralta came in to pitch the eighth for the Bay Rays and he'd been very effective so far this season. He pitches almost exactly like a pudgier Francisco Rodriguez, the Mets' closer.

Peralta didn't want anything to do with Bautista and walked him. The crowd booed lustily. Adam Lind came up next and appeared to have like a ninety pitch at bat. Peralta got behind and then Lind fouled pitch after pitch. Finally, Peralta got Lind to ground hard to first baseman, Dan Johnson. There are two things you need to know about Dan Johnson. The first of which is that in part time duty, he has batted under .200 for three straight seasons and is currently batting .121. The second is that, though his numbers aren't bad over at first defensively, he's never played there full time. Johnson fielded the ball close to first and stepped on the bag and then threw to second to try to get Bautista. Johnson had plenty of time, but the ball sailed a little bit and ended up hitting Bautista in the back. JoBau was safe.

The announcers in the game went on and on about how Johnson should have gone to second right away and not stepped on first to begin the play. The Fan doesn't agree with that at all. Johnson was two feet from the bag when he caught the grounder. Big league first basemen have been making that play for a hundred years. All Johnson had to do was throw the ball on the shortstop side of second and Bautista would have been out by a mile. Johnson didn't and Bautista was safe. For those of you wondering, Bautista was not out of the base line while running to second. It was simply a bad throw from Johnson.

So now the tying run was on second with only one out in a one run game. There should have been two outs with nobody on base. What happened next proved that this was Bautista's day and cost the Bay Rays the game. JoBau was trying to get a good lead so he could score on a single. The Bay Rays knew that and Sean Rodriguez sneaked in behind Bautista, opened his glove to give the signal and Peralta whirled and delivered a perfect pickoff throw. Bautista was a dead duck except Sean Rodriguez failed to catch the ball. It hit the webbing of his glove and bounced a few feet behind him. Seriously, Bautista would have been dead in the water, hung out to dry or any other cliche you feel like coming up with. But there he was still on second twice after he should have been out.

Edwin Encarnacion was up next and hit the ball over Zobrist's head in right field. It appeared that Zobrist had broken in first before trying to retreat to catch the ball. He couldn't catch up to it. Perhaps if Fuld had been back there, it would have been an out (#LegendofSamFuld). but the double scored the charmed Jose Bautista and that tied the game at four. The Blue Jays eventually won the game when John McDonald, who was only in the game because Nix was injured earlier in the game, hit a walk-off homer scoring Woodward, who was running for Juan Rivera, who finally got a hit while batting .089. Talk about an unwieldy sentence that described an improbable event!

But the game turned on those two plays on Bautista at second. No errors are recorded in the score book. You never assume a double play, so Dan Johnson didn't receive an error for hitting Bautista in the back. And Sean Rodriguez didn't get an error for dropping that pickoff throw. Zobrist didn't get an error for breaking in on a ball over his head and yet all of those things were plays the Bay Rays could have made to make the outcome turn out differently than they did. But that's the way it goes in baseball sometimes.

One other note about this game. Felipe Lopez, who has worn out his welcome in several cities before making his way to Tampa, went 0-5 in the game with two strikeouts. But it was his last at bat that will be his last for the Bay Rays. We are talking about a tie game here that both teams wanted to win. In the top of the eleventh inning, Lopez hit a routine grounder to second and loafed toward first. It turns out that McDonald booted the ball. But Lopez didn't hustle and that gave McDonald time to recover and throw him out. Joe Maddon pulled Lopez from the game after that. Look for Lopez on the waiver wire today.

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