Apparently, the Rays hosted a “country” night tonight because there was a concert scheduled after the game for some young country artist. This, of course, meant they used every possible stereotype to add to the ambiance of the game — cowboy hats and boots, flannel, silly “country” sayings explained on the big score board, and Old West Themed line-up announcements. What all this has to do with country music beyond a stereotype is beyond me. I mean, it’s not like people think of the Tampa Bay area and think “high country” for country stereotypes. (Maybe a good portion of Florida, but definitely not Tampa.)
But I digress… because I don’t like having to talk about a game when the Yankees lost. Almost as much as I hate the fact that the Trop sounds what can only be described as the sound a semi-truck for a giant must make as it’s crashing through the stadium every single time the home team scores a home run. Which unfortunately happened more than one time tonight.
Anyway, the Yankees were facing one of the worst starters (statistically) in the AL, and somehow they managed to give him a win. On the other hand, the Yankees sent their starter with the best record to the mound tonight — Nathan Eovaldi. And honestly, Eovaldi did his best to keep it a tight game and was rather efficient through most of the game. A few of his 104 pitches (though he was at less than 70 going into the 5th inning) got the better of him — all 3 allowed runs were scored on homers. But he only gave up 3 hits and 2 walks, striking out 4 Rays batters over his 6 innings.
The runs were scored early in Eovaldi’s outing — a 1-out solo home run in the bottom of the 1st, and a 2-run home run in the 3rd, after the only other allowed hit (a single) got the lead-off runner on base. So when Eovaldi left the game at the end of the 6th, he was handing over a tight game to the bullpen.
It wasn’t to stay that way for long, unfortunately. Anthony Swarzak came on and things got interesting. After a quick ground out, the next Rays batter doubled. But the call at 2nd was too close, so the Yankees challenged it and rightfully so, because replays had bad angles that showed him coming off the base and maybe being tagged then. But HQ upheld the call because they couldn’t see enough evidence to overturn it nor could they confirm the call was accurate.
Anyway, that runner then stole 2nd and then scored on an RBI single for the Rays insurance run. And then a 2-run home run gave the Rays a nice lead over the Yankees to sail them through the rest of the game comfortably. Richard Bleier’s 2-pitch outing at the top of the 8th gave up a single before turning things over to Adam Warren who effectively shut down the Rays in order.
Now, on the flip side of things, the Yankees didn’t do much to dent in the Rays lead except in the 3rd inning. With 2 outs and Chase Headley on 2nd after a single and wild pitch, Brett Gardner hit a big 2-run home run into the right field seats to give the Yankees a brief lead. That they in turn lost in the bottom of that inning.
The Yankees were held to just 4 hits and a walk for base runners through the first 7 innings of the starter and his first reliever. But when that reliever came out in the 8th for his second inning, Chase Headley hit a big solo home run to halve the Rays lead. (Insert stereotypical cowboy reference here.) But the Yankees didn’t do much beyond that, and the Rays closer breezed through the 9th inning with 3 straight strikeouts.
Final score: 6-3 Rays.
But there were some weird things in this game…
There were a total of 3 challenges in tonight’s game, and the Yankees won two of them early on in the game, which may be the reason that they kept it close for the first part of the game. In the 4th, Romine (catching tonight) got the runner stealing 2nd when he threw the ball to a waiting Castro who tagged the runner as he sort of twirled into his slide. Rays challenged, call upheld. And then it was the Yankees’ turn to challenge in the 5th when a batter seemed to beat out a really close throw from Headley to Teixeira. But like I prefaced this paragraph, the Yankees won both these as the call on the field was overturned and the runner was out. But just barely.
And due to the weirdness that is Tropicana Field’s dome, they have all these rules as to what constitutes a home run, a foul, a fair ball, an out, etc. depending on what the ball hits within the stadium. They have all these catwalks around the dome for the lights and such, and every now and then, a ball will get hit into or onto one of them. Tonight, in the 2nd, a ball was hit straight up into the air, bounced off a catwalk, and popped back into the infield to a waiting Didi Gregorius. Honestly, the runner thought he had a nice hit or something, and everyone kind of stood around in confusion for a few moments wondering what the call was. Apparently, it was “out”, and the inning was over.
In the 8th inning, technically, Jacoby Ellsbury hit the ball and it dribbled itself into an apparent double play. Which would’ve ended things for the inning, but leave it to Ellsbury to earn his 10th catcher’s interference of the season to get on base safely and thus void out the play. Literally, if there was one phrase to define to Ellsbury’s 2016 season, it would be “catcher’s interference”.
Now, while I’ve mentioned the mixed genres of stereotypes at the Trop tonight (like “country” and the Old West), I’m going to add one more to the mix — the Golden Sombrero. Yes, the Yankees own Alex Rodriguez in his first game since turning 41 earned that title tonight as he struck out all 4 times in his at-bats. I mean, since we’re mixing genres, we might as well throw in a little Tex-Mex tonight.
Tonight was basically like going to Taco Bell and eating it around a bonfire in your decorative boots you affectionately call your “cowboy” boots because you wore them to a bar once when they had line dancing. Is anyone just so ready for Star Wars Day in the Bronx? (It’s August 5th, against the Indians.) Or maybe these theme nights are better done in the minor leagues, under the stars, when it’s more about the local community gathering for fun and not about a professional sports team trying to make it to the postseason while battling off trade rumors? But what do I know? I’m just a blogger with an opinion after all.