The evening had all the makings of a great outing - live, real baseball (even in the Hell that is The Trop, it's still real baseball), a Rays team that was barely recognizable (Damon, Upton and Longoria out, some guy named Elliot - ELIOT! - playing second base, and the ever dangerous Felipe Lopez DH-ing), and best of all, my 2nd annual outing with the New Boss (not the same as the Old Boss) Jim "Marvelous" Margalus and his two married Tampa-based friends. As I pushed back from my first Cracker Barrel dinner in about 8 years (yep, Uncle Herschel's breakfast at 4:30 in the afternoon sure hit the spot) I drove over to the Worst Ballpark in the Worst Professional Baseball-Hosted State to claim my free ticket.
Jim scored some nice seats from Stub Hub - Row Y, almost centered on the Sox dugout. (We could see the stunning visage that is the face of Ramon Castro up close - believe you me, it cannot be photographed with justice. Or with a camera, because as Joe Torre was described in his playing days, he dissolves camera lenses.) We eagerly anticipated an interesting pitcher's duel, what with Tdogg's boy E-Jax going against David Price, boy wonder of 2010 but strangely unsuccessful - winless, even - against the Good Guys.
However, Price looked nothing like the nervous rookie larry and I saw up close during the Sox playoff game against the Rays in 2008 when he was warming up in the bullpen and leaving the field every 5 minutes to go to the bathroom. When he whiffed Beckham for the 2nd out of the first inning Gordon looked completely overmatched. A broken-bat single by Q and a duck snort by Paulie nothwithstanding, the first inning Price cruised - and that was his most difficult inning. He never looked in trouble and his defense was flying all over the field making spectacular plays (I counted 4). Paulie and Castro had the hardest hit balls of the night - Paulie skied one, just missing a dinger, and Castro rattled one into left center for a double. That was it. The Sox took called-third strikes for the last 4 strikeouts. Price and his mop-up relief sent the already corpulent Rays fans home with free pizza by striking out 10+ Sox (turn it up - it goes all the way to 11. It's more than 10!).
And Jackson was nearly decapitated about 4 times with line drives up the middle - the first culprit, of course, Sam "Fucking" Fuld (who should've been celebrating Passover tonight) leading off the first inning. When the Rays scored 3 in the bottom of the first (Zorilla Ben Zobrist, he of the .173 BA coming into the game, banged a 2 run dinger) we got the feeling we would be in for a long E-Jax night. However, he pitched almost Buehrle-like in his efficiency: Yesterday, MB pitched 7 innings, gave up 4 runs on 10 hits. Jackson did almost exactly the same tonight, giving up one more hit than Mark.)
At least it was over quickly. After a game with zero Sox highlights (unless you count a Che walk) I thanked Jim and his friends and drove home under a full moon and flickering skies. Funny, the lightning didn't generate much energy tonight, either.
(Notes by Jim. We'll make this the recap.)
*Price did seem to benefit from a wide strike zone, but Jackson struggled to take advantage by missing spots. Not quite as bad as his previous start, but he didn't do himself any favors.
*There was a temporary delay after Felipe Lopez's homer off Matt Thornton, as bubbles drifted in between home plate and the pitching mound. Thornton gave up a homer on a slider, but then seemed to find his footing with his fastball. He retired the next three hitters, striking out two of them, and 14 of his 18 pitches went for strikes.