American League Division Series, Game 4
Grant Balfour just struck out Ken Griffey Jr. in the bottom of the ninth inning, as the Rays beat the White Sox 6-2 to close the American League Division Series three games to one at U.S. Cellular Field.
The AL East champion Rays, playing in their first postseason, will meet the winner of the Anaheim Angels-Boston Red Sox series beginning Friday. The Rays would have home-field advantage and host Game One if the opponent is Boston. The Red Sox lead the best-of-five, 2-1.
It's gonna rain
So, imagine you're a reporter on deadline and you happen to burst through the wave of television crews and find yourself standing next to Carl Crawford. Then six Rays surround him and start spurting champagne everywhere. This is what it sounds like.
It doesn't smell very nice an hour later, and it's honestly quite sticky. Note to self: bring a slicker next time.
They then drank champagne. And it was good. But not at all like this.
Three outs to go ...
... and the Rays are bound for the American League Championship Series. (Smack your face. Read this again). Yes, it's true. Discuss.
Here you go.
Konerko, fly out to right.
6-2 Rays, bottom of the seventh.
Grant Balfour warms in the pen.
It feels like it feels when the Rays win
They have swagger, they have poise, and they're doing what they want right now. Carl Crawford stole second and third after walking in the sixth and appeared to be figuring out ways to add home before Gabe Gross flew out to end the inning.
And those white towels are waving a little less enthusiastically.
5-1 Rays entering the bottom of the sixth and starter Andy Sonnanstine, who hasn't won since August, has allowed just two hits.
The view from the press box at U.S. Cellular Field. I bet your TV doesn't have a big bar going across the mound. But the surround sound here is fricken awesome.
One third down
Are you in the car on your way to St. Pete-Clearwater airport yet? (If so, please keep two feet on the wheel as you blog. You're not a very good driver as is).
Top fourth: Rays (BJ Upton) 2, Sox 0 and the Cell is a little mumbly and agitated.
Andy Sonnanstine appears to be settling in.
Three homers in his last four at-bats. Mr. Upton appears to feelin' it. His rip to left-center just cleared the rail 417 feet from home plate.
Blowin' in the wind ...
The wind is blowing straight in - hard - which might hamper the Sox power game some. Alexei Ramirez just raked a liner to left that was knocked down and made an easier play for Carl Crawford. All the breeze did to Upton's blast was knock them down into the first row.
(Pictured: B.J. Upton's solo homer in the first inning gave the Rays a 1-0 lead. Times photo -- Brian Cassella.)
Top second, 1-0, Rays: B.J. Upton's second home run in his last three at-bats has to be encouraging if you're a Rays fan, and I suspect you are.
The vibe here at The Cell is a little subdued today. There's some empty seats out there and "The Blackout" is not complete.
That evil baseball genius that is A.J. Pierzynski apparently struck again in the Sox 5-3 win in Game 3. Pierzynski stealthily stuck his bat in front of Rays catcher Dioner Navarro as he attempted to throw out DeWayne Wise stealing second base in the third inning.
Wise reached safely and scored to tie the game 1-1 when Pierzynski singled.
Navarro said he didn’t realize what had happened until he watched highlights of the game on television.
That’s the way he plays,” Navarro said of Pierzynski, though he added later, “I’m pretty sure he didn’t mean it.” Manager Joe Maddon, who has arguably been stung by Pierzynski’s plotting more than any other manager with the Angels and Rays, said it was “not appropriate.”
Wise said he didn’t see anything, but if Pierzynski did it …. it was okay.
“That’s like if somebody’s squaring around to bunt, they put their bat in the catcher’s path so he can’t come up and make the throw. That’s part of the game,” he said. “That’s not dirty at all.”
Maddon also pondered how the Sox seemed to pick the right pitch on which to steal in going 3-for-3 against Navarro, who was among the best in the league in throwing out runners in the regular season. Wise stole on a high fastball, Maddon said, but Brian Anderson and Juan Uribe guessed right on breaking pitches.
Nope, Wise said, suppressing a grin.
“You’ve just got to your pitch, man, and hope they’ll throw a curveball in the dirt or something like that. I guess that’s been the issue,” he said.
About an hour to game time in Chicago and the Rays are finishing up BP, without Carl Crawford. It's a rather ominous start to a monstrous game for the AL East champions, although Crawford is in the lineup and the injury was not serious. Certainly, the Rays' dominance at Tropicana Field would bode well in a Game 5 on Wednesday if the White Sox tie the series, but would you really want the season to come down to a one-game playoff? No. Especially since Chicago has made such games their speciality the past few weeks.
(Pictured: The Rays' Cliff Floyd, right, shares a laugh with the White Sox's Ken Griffey Jr. before Monday's game in Chicago. Times photo -- James Borchuck. Click to enlarge.)
"Don't wake up the dog. Because you never know what will happen."
- White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, discussing his assessment that the Rays, having led the ALDS 2-0 (and now 2-1) have more pressure on them to close out the series than his team does to come back. Guillen wielded the mantra after Sox jumped ahead 3-0 in each of their playoff series wins en route to the 2005 World Series title.