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Rays Win Back-and-Forth Battle, Rocks of Twins Bullpen Falter

Final in 10:  Rays 5, Twins 4.  At least the umpire's blown call didn't play a part in the outcome.

In a game where the lead changed hands like a Bart Simpson pog at a 9-year old's birthday party in 1994 and the strike zone could be called "irregular", this was still a game the Twins could have won.  A game-tying home run by Delmon Young in the seventh and a Jason Kubel sac fly that scored Joe Mauer in the eighth should have put this one away, but with a 4-3 lead heading into the top of the ninth there was too much life left in the Rays.

Jon Rauch picked up an easy out to kick off the frame, by getting Jason Barltett on a first-pitch fastball.  But then Rauch struggled.  He eventually put Ben Zobrist down after a six-pitch fight to bring the Twins to within an out of victory.  It was the closest they'd get.

The speedy Carl Crawford singled on five pitches.  It was a pitcher's pitch but Crawford fought it off for a two-out hit.  Evan Longoria also saw a two-strike count before turning on an inside fastball and ripping it into right field for a double.  Crawford, naturally, scored from first.

In the top of the tenth the Rays hit Matt Guerrier one more time than he hit them (see what I did there?), and took the final lead of the game on a single into left field.  Young came up throwing to third base in an attempt to gun down Kelly Shoppach, and as Cuddyer fielded the ball he tagged Shoppach quickly as he saw Willy Aybar trying to advance to second on the throw.  Third base umpire Alfonso Marquez completely biffed the call, saying Cuddyer didn't tag Shoppach when the replay clearly showed he did.

It doesn't matter in the end, of course.  Guerrier and Brian Duensing stranded Shoppach at third, and the Rays had already taken the lead.

Carl Pavano didn't have a bad game.  He went six and a third, and was charged with three runs (two earned).  Where today differed from his recent strong outings was his inability throw strikes when he got ahead and when was in two-strike counts.  In two-strike counts, only 10 of his next pitches were strikes in 36 opportunities, and when he was ahead in the count in general things weren't much better.  There just weren't very many times where he was able to get through a hitter quickly.

Left-handed hitters had him pegged today, and this largely stemmed from his inability to retire Carl Crawford after the first inning.  In fact, only one of Pavano's hits today came from a right-handed hitter.

Notes and awards after the jump.

  • The Twins actually hit the ball pretty well today--definitely better than their seven hits implies.
  • Today's Delmon highlight was his 9th bomb of the season and another outfield assist (and an umpire-botched chance at ANOTHER assist).  Last season, Young's 9th home run came on September 25th.
  • Carlos Pena went 0-for-5 last night, and Matt Joyce was 0-for-2.  Tampa's #4 and #5 hitters are now batting .199 and .188 respectively.
  • Remember Grant Balfour?  Dude just keeps striking guys out and keeping runners off base.
  • Pavano induced 11 groundouts, to just a pair of outs in the air.  Is anybody really wondering why he's been so good?

MVP:  Carl Crawford.  He couldn't be stopped...hitting or running.
MVP In A Losing Effort:  Carl Pavano
Clutch Hitter:  Evan Longoria
Maybe I Shouldn't Have Started Again Today:  Jim Thome
Most-Ejected:  Ron Gardenhire
Please, Nobody Talk About How Effective of A Hitter I've Been Recently:  Nick Punto