The Sunshine Series, as they call the interleague matchup between the Rays and Marlins, has… um… a long and storied history. I mean, the first year these two teams existed in 1998, Tampa went 63-99 and Florida, 54-108 (as the defending champions!). This year, the Marlins passed out vuvuzelas, which meant watching the games meant listening to what sounded like a freaking beehive. On Saturday night, not doing much of anything -my life is really exciting – and with nothing else on, I turned on the Rays/Marlins game in the top of the eighth inning, just in time to see the Marlins’ Jay Buente walk in a run to give the Rays a 5-2 lead.
So, for the bottom of the eighth, the Rays’ Randy Choate replaced Joaquin Benoit. On his second pitch of the night, Choate hit Coghlan, then was removed from the game. The next pitcher, Dan Wheeler, then allowed back-to-back doubles to Gaby Sanchez and Hanley Ramirez, and then Jorge Cantu reached on an error. 5-4 Marlins, and Joe Maddon then removed Wheeler – the second pitcher removed before even recording an out – for Rafael Soriano, his closer. Soriano struck out Dan Uggla and got Cody Ross to hit an easy ground ball to uber ultra awesome defensive third baseman Evan Longoria… but Evan, obviously bothered by the vuvuzelas or something, bobbled it and let the tying run score. Neither team could score in the ninth, though not without Florida’s closer Leo Nunez probably giving every Marlins fan a heart attack, so the game moved into extras.
Now, the night before, the Marlins had absolutely annihilated the Rays’ starter Matt Garza, who’d lasted just 1.1 innings, so the Rays had a bit of a thin bullpen. So who comes out of the bullpen in the bottom of the tenth inning but… James Shields. Who is a stahting pitchah. Anyway, Shields had a scoreless inning, so the Marlins brought in… Jorge Sosa? Okay, then.
Anyway, those of you that know Jorge Sosa will not be surprised that this was Sosa’s line in the game, because hey, sometimes you can predict baseball: groundout, single, walk, lineout, walk, bases-loaded walk, bases-loaded walk. Yeah. Scott Strickland was brought in and allowed a weak single to add to the Rays’ lead, then got the third out, but the damage was done. 9-5 Rays. Game’s pretty much over, right?
Oh no it’s not. The Rays brought in Lance Cormier. He allowed rookie Mike Stanton to reach on an error, then a single and a walk. Bases loaded, nobody out; the tying run was at the plate. The next two batters singled to make it 9-8 Rays, with the tying run on thitd and still, nobody out.
So, Cormier didn’t have it. Maddon pulls him and in his place puts in Andy Sonnanstine, who is not only kind of a meh pitcher but who, as the Rays’ long man, had thrown 4.2 innings and 55 pitches the day before. Anyway, Sonnanstine strikes out the next guy he faces, but whatever, there’s still just one out. The tying run is on third. All you need is a deepish fly ball.
Only this is the NL, and the benches had been mostly emptied at this time, and the pitchers’ spot was due up. So the Marlins were forced to pinch-hit for their current pitcher with a mildly better-hitting pitcher, Anibal Sanchez. During his at-bat, the Marlin on first base steals second, to put the winning run into scoring position, but of course Sanchez strikes out. NL baseball rules, y’all!!!! Anyway, rather anti-climactically, Dan Uggla flies out, and the game’s over. 9-8 Rays. Sad vuvuzelas honk throughout Land Shark or Sun Life Stadium, or whatever they’re calling it nowadays.
Oh, and just to add to the lunacy, at some point in this game during extra innings, the umpire incorrectly filled out some switch on the Marlins’ lineup card and voided a leadoff walk by one of the Marlins’ hitters because of the lineup card that he had filled out incorrectly. And then the Marlins’ manager got thrown out for rightfully protesting. It was all very strange. And, dare I say, unpredictable.
Here’s the WPA graph, thanks to Fangraphs. It’s not quite as crazy as the Twins/Phillies WPA graph, but it’s fun nevertheless. The box score is also amusing, if only to see how many “PH”s and stuff there are, as well as pitchers used – especially those that pitched less than one inning, three of whom got no outs at all. James Shields got the win for pitching ONE INNING when he had recently gotten a no-decision for an 8 IP, 2 ER, 10 K performance, and a loss for another 8 IP/2 R game.
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