For the ninth time this season, the Rays won in dramatic fashion, with catcher Jose Lobaton hitting the game winning one out RBI triple up the right field line. The icing on the cake: New York crushed Boston, allowing Tampa Bay to gain a game on the Red Sox, and reasserting themselves just a game out of first place in the AL East. The Rays 5-4 walk-off win was the second of the week.
There was a lot to like about last night’s gritty win. First off, Jeremy Hellickson put together a solid, if unspectacular, start against the Blue Jays ace RA Dickey. Hear me out. It was a solid outing, in that he put together a quality start, relinquishing only three runs while keeping the Rays in the game for the duration of his time on the mound — an important fact when considering who opposed the Rays RHP. Helly used 106 pitches to get through six innings, and gave up nine hits while striking out three and walking only one. After lasting fewer than five innings in each of previous three starts, a six inning outing where he allowed only one extra base hit stands as a marked improvement.
If I may, a victory seemed improbable from the get go, considering that RA Dickey owned a career 2.31 ERA at the Trop prior to last night — including a dear in the headlights like complete game two hitter earlier this summer. I would have given you a baffled look going into the game, had you told me he’d post a 7 IP/6 H/4 ER/2 BB/6 K slash line, including a sixth inning solo shot off the bat of Matt Joyce — snapping his 43-game homerless drought. Furthermore, the bottom of the order was mightily productive Friday night with Yunel Escobar, Sam Fuld, and Jose Lobaton taking the reins. The bottom three went 5-10 with two triples, two runs, and four runs batted in.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge Lobaton’s contribution behind the plate. The hero of last night’s game blocked a Fernando Rodney changeup in the dirt with the go-ahead run at third base. Rays skipper Joe Maddon called that one of the biggest plays of the game.
“I was telling (Escobar) after the inning, I didn’t know how I caught that ball,” said Lobaton after the game. “I said, ‘I think I can do something better in hitting.’ “
Maddon tweeted after the game,
“First Lobaton got an RBO in the top of the 9th & then when was the last time a catcher hit a walk-off triple? I don’t know. Incredible.”
That isn’t to say there weren’t any less than stellar moments. Joel Peralta allowed the lead to slip away in the eighth inning after giving up a single, walk, and sacrifice ahead of a poorly played game tying fielder’s choice. With two outs and runners in scoring position, Gose hit a ground ball to Yunel Escobar. The Rays shortstop attempted to gun Brett Lawrie down at the plate instead of going for the sure out at first. The calculated play could have proven costly. Then in the ninth, a less than efficient Fernando Rodney gave up a pair of base hits and a fielders choice, culminating in a runners on the corners scenario.
Nevertheless, the Rays walked away with their third consecutive win, reasserting themselves at the top of the AL East, while driving a larger wedge between Tampa Bay and the rest of the wildcard pack.
The New What Next
Roberto Hernandez will try to continue the Rays three-game winning streak against JA Happ and the Blue Jays Saturday night. You can read more about the pitching match-up here.
Rays 8/17/13 Starting Lineup