Wednesday, 4 a.m.
Well, bless its crooked little rooftop.
Say thanks to those catwalks, and to the Rays Tank, and to the big Orange in right field. Chuck the Beach and the Party Deck and the Budweiser Porch on the shoulders. Smile at the Rays' tank and the picnic area and Kane's strikeout board. Embrace from the top of the orange roof to the plastic grass below.
Dome, sweet Dome.
And isn't it good to see Tropicana Field again?
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The Rays returned home (finally) Tuesday night, and just like that, everything worked again. The leaky bullpen was perfect again. The starting pitching was sharp. The defense was solid. Even the swing-and-miss offense … well, that was still swing and miss. You can heal the sick; you can't raise the dead. The Rays still had 10 strikeouts, the seventh time in eight games they've had double digits, but you can't have everything.
Still, the Rays took a 5-1 victory over the Detroit Tigers that was close to everything you wanted it to be.
It was so good, in fact, that favorite target Tim Beckham had a superb night. He hit a two-run homer and had a single, bringing up his average to a lofty .227.
Today's talk-show subject? "Why can't Beckham do it every night?" Either that or "blind squirrels do find an occasional peanut."
Being the designated target of the fan base isn't easy. A lot of people can't understand why Beckham is playing so much more than rookie Daniel Robertson. But Beckham didn't draft himself No. 1 ahead of Buster Posey, and he didn't hurt regular Matt Duffy's foot. Still, even on a team in a tailspin, the fans have singled him out. It “definitely” takes a tough skin, he said.
“He had a huge night,” said manager Kevin Cash. “Beck and Matt Andriese are the stories of the night for me. We've asked Beck to play solid shortstop, and he's done that. He didn't get off to the hottest start offensively at the plate, but if you look at his last couple of ballgames he's starting to feel pretty good. When he does, he has the ability to knock a ball out of the park. Tonight, he had a huge home run.”
The thing is, this is the best opportunity that Beckham has had to play. Can he stay there? Is it more than just one night? We'll see.
“It feels good to be out there,” Beckham said. “It even feels good to struggle...to play the ballgame. I'm not thinking about the opportunity to play. I don't want to put pressure on myself. I just want to go out and take it game-by-game and bat-by-bat and try to help my team win ballgames.”
Two-run homers help. Playing well in the field helps. Hitting more than .125 (early in the season) helps.
The thing is, baseball is a long-haul game. If Beckham is going to change any minds, it will take a lot of games like Tuesday night's. That's fair.
Oh, it wasn't just Beckham on Tuesday night. How about Matt Andriese, who won his first game of the year? Yeah, it was the same Andriese that gave up a laser home run to Miguel Cabrerra. But Andriese settled down and gave up only three more hits through six innings. And the bullpen was perfect.
If this Rays team is to have more nights like this one, it eventually has to make more contract. In seven of its last eight games, the Rays have had double-digit strikeouts. They had 10 Tuesday night even thoiught they didn't bat in the bottom of the ninth; they lead the majors in offensive strikeouts, and they have more than they had at this point a year ago when they had the second-worst strikeout totals in AL history.
For the Rays, catcher Derrick Norris, hitting .200, had two hits.
Tampa Bay plays against Detroit again today when Chris Archer goes against Jordan Zimmermann.