Tropicana Field, what with its slanted roof, its synthetic warning track — and its cowbells — is not somewhere you’d expect to see aethstetically pleasing baseball. And so far, it’s delivered, or something.
The Nationals got three runs in the first inning off Matt Garza, matching their best output in any of the last four games and punctuating the rally with a double from Elijah Dukes, who emphatically clapped his hands after driving in two runs amidst boos from his former team’s fans.
Since then, though, the Rays have caused havoc in the way they do it against everybody, and in a way that’s going to be a problem all weekend for the Nationals.
They’ve stolen three bases in the first three innings. The first one led to Ben Zobrist scoring the Rays’ first run when he slid around Josh Bard’s tag on Dioner Navarro’s single. Dukes’ throw arrived in plenty of time, but it was hard to see from TV replays if Bard tagged Zobrist in time. Manny Acta came out to argue the call, unsuccessfully.
Then, in the third, a double steal produced a run when Bard airmailed a throw to Ryan Zimmerman trying to get B.J. Upton at third.
The Rays run as well as any team in baseball, and Acta knew his young pitchers would have trouble holding runners before the game. When asked how the Nationals could stop the Rays from running, he quipped, “Not letting them steal first.” Well, Craig Stammen hasn’t done that very well. He’s walked two, hit one and given up two singles.
It’s 3-2 Nats after three. More cowbell!