Friday, June 15, 2012

New York Mets 9 at Tampa Bay Rays 6 - June 14, 2012

This trip is primarily about seeing the Blue Jays in Miami's new park as well as all 12 Florida State League stadiums. With the FSL on its all-star break this weekend, I planned to see the Rays hosting the Marlins a couple of times, but I didn't think to check their schedule before or after. As I drove into Lakeland on Wednesday afternoon, I heard the Rays' broadcasters mention that Thursday's game against the Mets would be an afternoon affair with recent no-hitter star Johan Santana taking on the Rays reigning rookie of the year, Jeremy Hellickson. How serendipitous! I had the morning free as the game I was planning to see was Thursday evening in nearby Clearwater, so I decided to drive to St. Petersburg first to check out the action. Sometimes though, serendipity is not a good thing.

I am not going to discuss Tropicana Field here as I got to the stadium just before the game started and didn't bother to tour. I'll post more on it after the weekend games. The picture above is from the shuttle bus after the game.

The Game

I expected a decent pitching show that would give me enough time to get to my hotel and then onto Clearwater. Instead I got a long, drawn-out affair that forced me to leave early. Kirk Nieuwenhuis served notice that a high-scoring game was in store when he belted the second pitch of the game deep into the right field seats. He added another shot in a 4-run fourth as the Mets pounded Hellickson for 8 runs over 3.2 innings. Santana wasn't that much better, giving up 4 runs in 5+ frames. Fortunately the bullpens were solid, and the score remained 8-4 after 8. I decided to leave at that point as I had to get to my car across town and make the drive to my hotel and then on to the Clearwater ballpark. While I was in transit on the shuttle bus, the Mets added another run, but of course, they couldn't make it easy. As I drove back past the stadium, the Rays mounted a rally of off Miguel Batista and Frank Francisco, scoring two and loading the bases for Ben Zobrist, who struck out on a controversial call. The Mets held on for the 9-6 win in a game and a 3-game sweep of the suddenly struggling Rays.


Hideki Matsui was recently called up by the Rays and was in the lineup as the DH. This is his fourth MLB team and coincidentally I have seen him at home in his first year with each squad. In 2003 I saw his debut at Yankee Stadium, then visited Anaheim in 2010, Oakland in 2011, and now Tampa Bay. He is clearly on his last legs, but he did knock two singles in the game (one below) which I was happy to see.

Next Up

A fairly quiet weekend in the Tampa Bay area, with two Rays games on Friday and Sunday. I was planning to see the FSL All-Star game on Saturday but I might stay around Tampa instead and enjoy the local area as I've yet to really explore it properly despite visiting on three separate occasions. Check back on Monday for an update.



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