(Miguel Olivo, shown here after his ninth-inning injury, is headed to the disabled list. Photo by Associated Press).
There was a lot going on in yesterday’s game, and I didn’t get to all of it. Here are a few observations after a night’s sleep:
–Yes, Michael Saunders made a questionable decision to bunt in the ninth, and he realizes that now. But it struck me last night, and I haven’t changed my mind, that to put yourself out there like that — knowing the criticism you’ll come under if it didn’t work — showed a lot of guts, and self-confidence. Just like when he boldly (and barely) stole third on his own in that comeback win over the Rangers earlier in the season, with the same second-guessing facing him if he had failed. Eric Wedge was peeved at the bunt decision, but I’ll bet he liked the chutzpah. And you know what? Saunders is a very good bunter. If he had put a good one down, it would have worked, and everyone would be hailing him for his bold call.
–Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Poor Felix Hernandez. Another wasted gem to add to the list. That’s 18 no-decisions in his career while throwing seven or more innings and allowing one or fewer runs — including three times in six starts this year. That’s the most of any MLB pitcher since his debut season in 2005. Hernandez has received one or fewer runs (and “or fewer” in this example is a kind way of saying, a big, fat goose egg) in a staggering 75 of 211 career starts, including 31 of his last 73 starts since the s tart of 2010.
–Speaking of Felix, his velocity may be down — I saw him hit 94 once last night, but he was working in the 90 to 92 range, it appeared — but he is proving that he can still be a fantastic pitcher at that speed.
–It got lost in the blown save, but what a huge moment that could have been for Jesus Montero, hitting a game-winning homer in a tense, extra-inning game. That didn’t happen, but it bodes well that he came through so big in such a key situation.
And now that Montero is going to be the semi-regular catcher, with Olivo’s injury, check out these numbers: When playing catcher this year (as he did last night from the ninth inning on), Montero is 9-for-20 (.450) with three homers and eight RBIs. When serving as DH, he’s 12-for-81 (.197) with one homer and five RBI.
I had noticed that trend and still wonder if the sample size is big enough to draw the obvious conclusion. But I have to think there’s something to the fact he hits better when involved in the game defensively. It bears watching.
–Hard to say who had a more ineffectual game at the plate last night, Chone Figgins (0-for-6, two strikeouts, no ball out of the infield) or Brendan Ryan (0-for-3, three strikeouts).
Figgins is now hitting .209, Ryan .136, and you’ve got to wonder if, and when, playing time is going to be curtailed for both of them. Especially with Mike Carp likely on the way, though now Eric Wedge has the DH spot to play around with more frequently to get more of this young players into the lineup, with Montero set to see more action behind the plate.
Since getting off to an encouraging .303 start in his first eight games, Figgins has hit .151 in his next 15, with a .233 on-base percentage. He got April to show if the leadoff spot would revive him. I’m not sure if he’ll get May.
–The Rays are worried about Evan Longoria, who left the game in the fourth with a sore knee after sliding into second base on a steal attempt in the bottom of the third. He left the park on crutches and will undergo tests today, and my buddy Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times wrote that “the sense in the Rays clubhouse was it could be an extended absence. ”
That would obviously be a tough blow for the Rays. Longoria is their best player and off to a great start — his single raised his average to .329 to go with four homers and 19 RBIs.
Here’s something to keep in mind: if Longoria goes on the DL, Tampa Bay could call up their Triple-A third baseman. That would be Matt Mangini, a first-round supplemental draft choice by the Mariners in 2007 who was released last August to make room on the 40-man roster for Anthony Vasquez. But Mangini isn’t exactly tearing it up for Durham, hitting .253 with no homers and 11 RBIs. Mangini made it to the majors with the Mariners for 11 games in 2010.
–I just kind of had a funny feeling that Elliott Johnson, who took over for Longoria and had a .158 average, was going to be the hero — and he finally was in the 12th after striking out with the winning run on third for the final out of the 10th (great pitching by Tom Wilhelmsen).
Speaking of funny, I was reminded by Twitter follower @TheCrappyTotals why that word applies to Johnson. He’s the second Kurkjian imitator in this post.
–I thought the picture I posted last night of the Rays celebration looked familiar, and then I remembered a picture I posted last Aug. 19, when I was also filling in for Geoff in Tampa Bay, and Johnny Damon hit a walk-off homer against Dan Cortes. Here they are, starting with last night, followed by last year: