Baseball fans are seen blowing their horns before a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Florida Marlins on Saturday, June 19, 2010, in Miami. These horns are similar to a vuvuzela, the noisemaker that's all the rage in South Africa in Miami Saturday, June 19, 2010. (AP Photo/Steve Mitchell)
On a night Florida handed out 15,000 "vuvuzelas" to fans, there was one unavoidable question when a marathon game was over.
Did those horns — and the constant noise — help the Marlins blow a game?
Quite possibly, yes.
An apparent miscommunication between Florida manager Fredi Gonzalez and home-plate umpire Lance Barksdale cost the Marlins a big chance in the ninth inning, and the Tampa Bay Rays roughed up Jorge Sosa for four runs in the 11th before hanging on for a 9-8 win on Saturday night.
B.J. Upton and Reid Brignac each drew bases-loaded walks off Sosa, Jason Bartlett added a two-run single later in the 11th, and the Rays found a way to remain tied with the Yankees for both the AL East lead and baseball's best record.
"Listen, man, it was not an oil painting by any means," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "But it was a victory. And I'll take it."
Carl Crawford had four hits and scored three runs for the Rays, who — perhaps fittingly on horn night — blew a 5-2 lead in the eighth.
James Shields (6-6), making the first relief appearance of his 133-game career, threw a scoreless 10th for Tampa Bay and was one of nine pitchers the Rays used in the 4-hour, 36-minute contest.
"Crazy game," Shields said.
That doesn't even begin to describe it.
Sosa (1-2) walked four and was charged with four runs in two-thirds of an inning. Six Florida relievers combined to issue 11 walks, and still the Marlins had chances in the 11th, making it 9-7 on Chris Coghlan's two-run single and then getting within a run on Gaby Sanchez's RBI single with none out.
Andy Sonnanstine then set down the last three Marlins for his first career save.
Looking to feed off World Cup soccer buzz, the Marlins gave away plastic air horns to fans as they entered the stadium, the toy instruments creating a loud and never-ending soundtrack for the night. Similar to the vuvuzelas that dominate the audio landscape at matches in South Africa, the buzzing of the horns blared from long before the first pitch, and some were still going at the end.
The horns might have been a hit with fans, but they were a big miss with those on the field, especially because all the noise could have prompted a lineup-card miscommunication between Gonzalez and Barksdale.
"It was the most uncomfortable baseball game I've been a part of in a long time because of that," crew chief Tom Hallion said. "Whether that had anything to do with it, I don't know, but it could have. When's the last time you heard something like that at a baseball game? Never. You don't see this kind of stuff at baseball games."
Said Maddon: "I really believe the horns should be banned from Major League Baseball."
Added Marlins second baseman Dan Uggla, who, like the umpires, resorted to earplugs: "That was the worst handout or giveaway I've ever been a part of in baseball. This isn't soccer. I know the World Cup is going on, but this is baseball."
And this from Marlins center fielder Cody Ross: "It was awful, awful. I can't tell you how awful it was."
Fans, however, seemed unable to get enough.
In the eighth, Hanley Ramirez started a three-run rally with a two-run double, hurting his right hamstring on the play. He stayed to score the tying run when Ross' grounder was mishandled by the Rays' Evan Longoria.
Ramirez was taken out before the ninth, replaced by Brian Barden.
That's when trouble really started for the Marlins.
Gonzalez thought Barden was batting ninth. Barksdale marked Barden batting third — so when Barden walked, he was called out for the lineup goof. After a long review by Barksdale, Gonzalez was ejected, then stayed on the field calmly for several more minutes as Barksdale kept checking the cards.
"Lance confirmed it with Fredi before he left to go back into the dugout," Hallion said. "And that's all we had to go by then."
Afterward, Gonzalez insisted he was in the right.
"He screwed it up," Gonzalez said, speaking of Barksdale. "I'll go anywhere you want me to go with it. I told him where the guys were hitting and he gave Joe the wrong places to hit.
"It's one of those things ... my word against him," Gonzalez added. "He's the official lineup card, so that's the one that counts."
To think, that was just part of the weirdness.
The Marlins used starting pitcher Anibal Sanchez to pinch-hit for reliever Scott Strickland in the 11th. Sonnanstine fanned him for the second out, then retired Uggla on a fly ball to right with two men in scoring position to end the long, long night.
Rays starter Jeff Niemann gave up three hits and two runs in six innings. Marlins starter Chris Volstad allowed four runs and seven hits in 5 2-3 innings, most of the damage coming in the sixth when Tampa Bay tagged him for three runs.
And though it tapered off somewhat in the later innings, the buzz of horns was constant.
"I couldn't hear myself talk," Shields said. "It was a weird game."