It is an unfortunate sight indeed when a pitcher falls victim to the ugly specter of the one bad inning. In the beginning, it looked as if Tampa Bay would be no stranger to this phenomenon. In the end, however, they had the last laugh. Their one bad inning was our one good inning; our one worse inning was their one better inning.
The game began on such a high note. Ellsbury got hit by a pitch. That, in and of itself, was obviously not the high note. That was an unfortunate accident. His getting on base was the high note.
Victorino then struck out, Pedroia singled, and then it was Papi’s turn. He got two fastballs. The first, a two-seam, he took for a ball. The second, a four-seam, he sent beyond the right field fence. It was a straight-shot rocket; if it had stayed in the park, it would have been one of those hard-hit line drives. The ball couldn’t wait to get out of the park. With that one swing, we scored three runs in the first inning alone.
It was the first and last time we scored.
We went down in order in the first, second, and third. Drew doubled and Ellsbury walked in the fourth, giving us runners at the corners with two out, but all hope for a rally died out when Victorino flied out. Pedroia walked to lead off the sixth, and Drew and Ellsbury both walked in the seventh. But we didn’t turn those opportunities into rallies. We went down in order in the eighth and the ninth.
Tampa Bay’s experience was about the same. The only difference was that they scored two more runs than we did.
The Rays went down in order in the first and second. Lackey gave up a single, a double, and a walk to load the bases with two out but bore down to end the inning on a groundout. Lackey’s poison of choice was the fourth inning. He gave up two consecutive singles and an RBI double before recording the inning’s first out with a strikeout. But he was right back at it with a two-run single followed by another single, a flyout, and a second two-run single. The fourth ended almost exactly as the third had: with Ben Zobrist grounding out on an off-speed pitch at the end of a five-pitch at-bat.
I’ll say something else about that second two-run single. Pedroia and Napoli both had their eyes on it, but Napoli had that ball. At least, he should have had it. He should have had it, the game should have tied at three, and we should have forced it into extras if necessary and eventually won. The fact that Napoli missed that catch and let the ball drop is egregious. Make no mistake, folks. It happened because of the roof. That white roof is a criminal backdrop against which to try to pick out and track a baseball. It’s awful. This is not the first time this has happened, and it certainly won’t be the last. But it should not be an issue. Players, not ballparks, play ballgames. And I do not fault Pedroia’s decision not to touch it; if it rolled foul, it’s possible that we wouldn’t even be having this discussion. He had no way to know that the ball would stay fair. In the end, however, he made a good effort, but there was nothing that could have been done at that point.
One out and one double into the fifth, Miller relieved Lackey; the frame ended with a strikeout and a caught thief. After he allowed a single to lead off the sixth, Mortensen came in and gave up a walk but nothing else. Two flyouts into the seventh, Breslow came on and ended that inning, recorded the first two of the next, and gave up a double. Wilson came in and ended the eighth.
The final score was 5-3. We spent three and a half innings under the assumption that it was us who would be celebrating the deleterious effects of the one bad inning. We could not have been more wrong. This game was essentially a pitcher’s duel. The question not only was who would crack first but also who would crack worse. We scored first but lost.
In other news, in one of the most suspenseful nailbiters I’ve seen on the ice lately, we have emerged victorious! We vanquished the Leafs, 5-4, and are moving on to the Rangers! Both teams each scored a goal in the first period. The Leafs took the lead by one in the second and scored two in the third, but we scored three to tie it up, and Toronto fell in sudden death. Wow. I’m hopeful that we’ll be able to make quick work of the Rangers, that’s for sure.