I did not realize, at 68-82, that these games still had the ability to hurt. Somehow, though, with six runs coming across in such rapid fashion, this one did.
Clay Buchholz was excllent tonight. But for a couple of doubles gifted the Rays by Pedro Ciriaco playing experimentally in center field (that particular experiment ended after four innings) and the official scorer's refusal to give outfield errors, Buchholz could well have entered the fifth with a no-no going. The first legitimate hit would come with two outs in said inning on a Desmond Jennings line drive, but Buchholz would get out of the inning without any damage.
Really, Buchholz could have made his way into the eighth and possibly beyond, but Bobby decided to go to the bullpen relatively early, and here we stand. Mike Aviles was responsible for the run that came in off of Junichi Tazawa, playing Little League defense on a routine ground ball to third (the scorer, of course, gave the Rays a double), but still, it was 3-1 headed to the ninth.
And that's when things got really crazy. Not in the bottom of the inning, but the top, because Jose Iglesias, already with a career-high two hits in the game, got a sinker over the plate from J.P. Howell, and hit a rocket into the stands and down a tunnel for his first ever Major Leauge homer. Rumors say that Jose is still sitting around worried that the scorer will make that into an error somehow.
What was less crazy was what happened in the bottom of the inning, as Andrew Bailey fell completely apart. Given a 4-1 lead to work with, Bailey got one out in seven at bats. He was up in the zone, flat...just plain awful. The Rays picked him apart with hit after hit, and when Vicente Padilla came in with the game tied, runners on second and third, and one out, the game was already basically over. That he gave up a walkoff shot to B.J. Upton just serves to make the Tampa Bay headlines more dramatic.
The Rays are still left five back in the Wild Card race, their season all-but-over given the late date. The Sox pretty much did their job just by splitting this series. But man, if the Rays didn't find just the right way to make this series into another 2012 failure in these last two games.