Monday, July 12, 2010

Snatching Defeat From the Jaws of Victory

The Rays lost their third straight one-run game Sunday morning, dropping a 6-5 heartbreaker to the Windward Braves in the heat at Riverdale’s Drew High School. Will pitched a fine 4-1/3 innings of the five inning game, only allowing one earned run. Without his best stuff, he still struck out five of the 20 batters he faced.

Jake and Will both singled in the first, giving the Rays two on with one out, but Bradley and Tyler couldn’t drive them in.

Tyler was the Rays’ starting pitcher, and he never looked comfortable. The mound had a huge hole in front of the rubber, making it hard for all the pitchers. Eight of the first nine Braves batters reached base, on three walks, three hits, a hit-by-pitch, and error. Tyler picked off one of the runners.

Down four runs and the bases still loaded, Will was brought in to get out of the jam. He did just that, getting the first batter he faced to ground out, ending the inning.

The Rays then reeled off five runs in the top of the second to retake the lead. Cole and Dustin led off the inning with singles, but the next two batters made outs. After Jake was hit to load the bases, the next four Rays’ batters walked, including Will. Will's pinch-runner scored the fifth run of the inning, on a wild pitch.

The Rays would only get one more hit the rest of the game, giving Will zero margin for error on the pot-holed mound. After the game Will said his fastball was ineffective, though his curve was working well.

In the second Windward worked the bases loaded with two out. In stepped the huge first-baseman, who had drilled a first-inning shot that Cole, the Rays’ best fielder, couldn’t handle. After the big guy slugged two hard fouls, Will froze him with a curve for a called strike three, ending a second straight bases-loaded jam.

Windward tied the game with an unearned run in the third. Will retired the first two batters, and got the third to ground slowly to short. Jake charged, but couldn’t make the play. As the next batter worked the count full, the runner advanced to third on a passed ball and wild pitch. Then another pitch got away from AJ, and the runner scored from third.

The Braves’ leadoff hitter led off the fourth. He had slammed two hard line drives in his first two at-bats, but Will struck him out swinging, on three straight curveballs. Will also struck out the cleanup hitter, completing his second straight 15 pitch inning.

In the fifth Will got two strikes before the first batter reached out and poked a single into centerfield. The next batter pushed his sacrifice bunt to hard. Will fielded it and instinctively looked to second. But in a move that would later cost him, he instead turned and threw out the batter at first. It did seem like the runner got to second quickly, and I didn’t see if the shortstop was even in place to take the throw.

A batter was intentionally walked, then Will struck out the next hitter for the second out. Will quickly threw two strikes to the next batter, who then hung on by barely fouling off two more strikes. Sensing his weak spot, Will tried to get the batter to go after an inside pitch. A low pitch skidded past AJ, and the runners moved up a base. Then Will threw a perfect pitch, just high enough for the batter to still swing. But the batter got his bat on the ball, poking yet another single into center. After the runner from third scored the go ahead run, Bradley threw out the next runner at the plate, ending the inning.

The game had started late, at 10:11 am. Now the clock read 11:58. Since 1:47 had elapsed, the game was called after five innings. After inheriting a four run deficit, the one earned run that scored on the game’s last play made Will the losing pitcher. That’s baseball.

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