One thing was evident upon entering the 2013 Citrus Series: The Rays needed to beat the Marlins. Without going into the why’s (editors note: I think the “why’s” are fairly obvious), the Rays have been successful thus far, snagging the first two games away from the Fish, while ending their most recent home-stand with a 3-2 record. The second half of the Citrus Series begins Wednesday at Carnival Cruise Lines Field…urm, Marlins Park.
Another series imperative — Jeremy Hellickson needed to post a strong performance. But as fate would have it, a solid outing was not in the cards. Thankfully, the Rays were able to come from behind — not once, but twice — Wednesday night, winning by a 7-6 score. Simply put, though he was downright whiffy with the change (80% for strikes, 9 whiffs) Hellickson was not good. Posting an inefficient 5.1 IP/7 H/5 R/5 ER/1 BB/3 K slash line, The Nibbler struck again, getting hammered especially hard in a 35 pitch, three run, third inning. Where Hellickson faltered, the bullpen and the offense did not. Jamey Wright, Joel Peralta, and Fernando Rodney came on in relief of Hellickson, putting together 3-2/3 innings of three hit, one-run ball. Jamey Wright and Fernando Rodney looked particularly good.
Wright came into the game with one out in the sixth inning, quickly getting a ground-out and a strikeout to end the inning. He came back out in the seventh inning and induced a pair of ground-outs to short, before giving up a single to Placido Polanco. But before the Marlins could even mentally process the hope for a two-out rally, Wright got Derek Dietrich to ground out the third. The much maligned Fernando Rodney came on in the ninth and looked, well, dominant. Not shying away from contact, the Rays closer returned to form, culling two quick ground-outs before getting Polanco to strike out swinging to end the game — all this on 14 pitches.
Though Hellickson found the Rays down by four runs early, the offense consistently kept the pressure on the Marlins, inevitably winning in walk-off fashion. It all started in the third inning when Jose Lobaton beat out Dietrich’s throw on a ground ball up the middle. After loading the bases, Matt Joyce hit a sac fly to left-field which scored Lobaton. Kelly Johnson followed that up with a one run double to deep center, plating Yunel Escobar. Down by two in the fourth, Desmond Jennings and Escobar went back-to-back with a pair of doubles, inevitably scoring Jennings and bringing the Rays within a run of the Marlins.
Coghlan would extend the Marlins lead in the sixth on a solo shot down the left-field line, but Tampa Bay would knot things up on a two-run Jose Lobaton double to deep right, driving in Luke Scott and Desmond Jennings — who reached on a double and a walk respectively. The Fish would take the lead once more in the eighth. As DRaysBay’s Daniel Russell notes,
Things got dramatic with two outs. On his seventeenth pitch, Peralta’s lone base runner took off for third on a ball bouncing off the plate on a wild pitch. Lobaton found the ball on rolling and fired to Longo who dropped to intercept the runner and the ball on a low throw. Ozma collided with Longo in a face first slide, and the ball broke loose. Dobbs followed with a single through the left side that Longo couldn’t reach while guarding third base.
But the run not go unanswered by the Rays. After Luke Scott dropped a one-out single to center, Desmond Jennings moved Scott over to second on a single through the left side. Yunel Escobar came through with another big hit, sending a single up the right side, scoring Scott and tying the game at six apiece.
With the game on the verge of going into extra innings, the red hot Kelly Johnson came to the plate in the ninth and promptly legged out an infield single that Marlins reliever Mike Dunn tried to field bare handed. Evan Longoria came to the plate next and sent a nasty slider up the left-field line. Dunn’s night would be done after getting James Loney to strikeout, and Luke Scott to fly out to left. Former Ray Chad Qualls came on to face Desmond Jennings and threw a 95 MPH first pitch fastball over the plate for a strike. But Qualls got greedy and threw the same exact pitch twice. Jennings made him pay, sending a shot up the right-field line, scoring Kelly Johnson for the game winning run.
If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a million times, walk-offs are fun when you’re on the right side of history.
The New What Next
The Rays head down to Miami for a pair of games, where Roberto Hernandez and Tom Koehler will butt heads in the third game of the Citrus Series. Unfounded rumors have swirled of late, about the potentiality this being Hernandez’s last appearance as a starter if he cannot put together a good outing. Again, those rumors are unfounded, so who knows? You can read more on the match-up here. We’ll post the starting lineup when it becomes available.
Rays 5/29/13 Starting Lineup
- Jake Odorizzi has been optioned back to Triple-A Durham. And though he had a pretty bad outing Monday, the move had more to do with bolstering the bullpen, at least for the time being. The pen has thrown 8-1/3 innings the past two games, with RHP Joel Peralta appearing in four straight games. The Rays have announced that Alex Colome has been recalled from Durham. Colome is on his day to start, so he gives the Rays the extra arm they need, especially with Hernandez starting tonight. Per Topkin, Saturday’s starter will be either LHP Alex Torres or RHP Chris Archer.