Casey at the Bat; Kotchman’s one pitch Walk – Off

By on August 9, 2011

Casey Kotchman watches the rawhide sail towards the center field wall in Tropicana Field. Kotchman belted the first Blake Wood pitch in the bottom of the ninth Monday night for a Tampa Bay Rays walk off win. (photo by Kim Klement/US Presswire)

St. Petersburg, Fla.–Kansas City Royals left fielder Alex Gordon pounded the second pitch of the game to the left center “Grab Some Buds” sign.   Two hitters later Gordon raced across the dish giving the AL Central last place Royals a 1-0 lead.  It looked like a bad start for Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson, but he would strike out seven of the next ten Kansas City batters.  Hellickson would have seven K’s in just three innings, wow!  This must have had the fans thinking pizza for sure (reference – ten or more strike-outs by Rays pitchers at a home game a local furniture store redeems ticket stubs for pizza.)

Hellickson and Royals starter Luke Hochevar just started mowing hitters down in what turned into quite a pitcher’s duel over the next six innings. 

It was Casey Kotchman’s frozen rope up the middle after stretch time that scored Ben Zobrist from second. Zobrist who walked, then advance to second on a Hochevar wild pitch, had to hustle the whole 180 feet climaxing with a good slide.  The throw from Royals center fielder Melky Cabrera was up the third base line a little.   Because the ball was hit so hard, a good throw could have have banged Zobrist out.  Good enough Rays fans, game tied at one. 

BJ Upton strikes out; Matt Joyce is intentionally walked then Robinson Chirinos pops harmlessly to Eric Hosmer the Royals first baseman, end of seven, tied at one.

The Royals threaten in the eighth after two Hellickson walks which sent him to the showers.   Hellickson really settled down after the first allowing just six hits, the one earned run, striking out seven, walking only three.  Joe Maddon said of Hellickson after the game, “Helly was fantastic, I even said in the first inning when he had all that trouble, I looked over at Hick (Jim Hickey, pitching coach) and I said, ‘he’s got great stuff tonight’ and he did.   His fastball was down and he was pitching off that fastball with his change-up.”       

Juan Peralta enters the contest with Royals on first and second with just one out. Peralta gets right fielder Jeff Francoeur to line out solid up the third base line to Evan Longoria.  Longoria made an impressive back-handed stab but then attempted to double Eric Hosmer off first but the throw, which was in the dirt, would skip away from Rays first baseman Casey Kotchman allowing the runners to move up.   I asked Kotchman afterward if the runner (Hosmer) was in the way, “No, I just whiffed it,  I tried to be too quick, I tried to pick it and tag him all in one motion when my first priority should have been just keep the ball in front of me but I zooed it.  But I tried to make a play, you know, just get out of the inning there.”  

Royals second baseman Johnny Giavetella would fly out to BJ Upton in center and the Rays still protect the tie.

After one out in the Rays eighth with Kansas City’s reliever Aaron Crow on the hill, Desmond Jennings draws a walk and then steals second.  Johnny Damon then walks.  Crow gets Evan Longoria to nub a roller up third towards third baseman Mike Moustakas, who made a great bare-handed play to nip Longoria at first.  With the runners, Jennings and Damon moved up, the rally comes to a halt with the clean-up hitting Ben Zobrist swinging and missing strike three.

In the top of the 9th Joe Maddon decides to go with closer Kyle Farnsworth with the scored still locked at one.  Farnsworth gets the job done sending the bottom of the Royals line up down 1-2-3.

Eight and one half innings in the books, I sat there thinking… how many extra innings will be played tonight?

Well, Royals new relief pitcher Blake Wood just finished his warm-up pitches and BAM!!!  I mean BAAMMM!!! Well maybe Blake was still warming up, the first real pitch… Casey Kotchman hit to dead center 416 feet as fast as the ball came in.  Walk-off home run.  RAYS WIN 2-1!   Kotchman continues hitting hot at .341.  Good night in his hometown, St. Petersburg, going 3 for 4 with the big dinger and 2 RBI.

Joe Maddon said after the game when asked about Kotchman, “”Those balls were struck properly by him tonight.  That home run to centerfield, off the bat we knew it was going to be a homerun.”  Kotchman who had a different vantage point and said when asked if he knew it was a homerun when he hit it said, “No, no chance.  I thought it was going to be caught.”

Oh the wild game of baseball, Hellickson and Hochevar throw gems, Kyle Fransworth pitches to three batters, and Blake Wood throws one pitch.  Official results: Hellickson and Hochevar no decisions; Fransworth the win, Wood the loss.

The Rays and Royals have three games left of this series, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at Tropicana Field.

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