The middle portion of the trip was...well, that. Middling.
The Rays' Spring Training stadium is nice, but nowhere near as nice as the Twins'. It felt like a minor league field (and it was one in the offseason), and even if the Twins stadium was as well, the Twins' stadium felt a bit larger, with more going on. The Rays' was marketing to smaller part of the state, in Fort Charlotte. Additionally, there weren't any backfields or practice fields that were open to the public, like in the Twins' field, so there weren't any autographs to be had.
However, the one thing that made this game sort-of worth it, at least initially:
The pitching matchup between Justin Marks and Jerad Eickhoff...was exactly that, a pretty apt matchup. Marks only lasted a few innings, but the Rays bullpen helped him out a bit, as through eight innings the Rays were COMPLETELY dominating the Phillies, with perfection going for a while. My uncle was rooting for a perfect game, and I was rooting against seeing my Phillies humiliated.
My dad, on the other hand, had other rooting interests- he'd recently picked up the Phils' center fielder Roman Quinn in his local strat-o-matic league, and was rooting for him at every chance he got, with every insane catch in center and every hit that looked gone but ended up in someone's glove. Dad just kept singing the theme from 'The Mighty Quinn' the entire night. We all wanted to slap him by the end.
It was pretty painful to see the Phillies lineup so effete, so ineffective, to see Aaron Altherr, Cesar Hernandez and Cameron Rupp get blanked. Jerad Eickhoff was pitching well, but he was giving up runs, including a crucial home run to Corey Dickerson. Plus, our seats weren't as good as yesterday's, and while the game was indeed flying, it didn't have as many great moments as yesterday's.
Now, Philadelphia DID eventually get a hit, from personal favorite Tommy Joseph in the 8th, and we did get to see Pat Venditte fan some batters using both hands, but the Rays kept pounding, especially in the later innings when the starters were leaving.
Even though it was a nice day, and a pretty good pitching battle, it didn't feel as fulfilling as yesterday's on a number of levels. I did end up getting a pin from the gift shop, because I do that, but I don't have that much else to take away from this one.
Tomorrow, a much more exciting finale, at a stadium I never thought I'd attend, featuring a team I've already (reluctantly) rooted for on this trip, and one I root for willingly, duking it out.