Think back to the middle of June. The Rays were a part of an ultra-competitive AL East which found the Red Sox, Orioles, and Yankees in first, second, and third. Sitting in last place, most knew that Tampa Bay would eventually move up in the standings. Fast forward to last night, the Rays were finally able to claim sole possession of first place following a 10-6 win over CC Sabathia and the New York Yankees.
It all started in the top of the second inning. Ben Zobrist crushed a line drive double into the alley off of a CC Sabathia fastball that stayed up in the zone. Sean Rodriguez moved Zo to third on a well struck fly-ball out to left-field, bringing Yunel Escobar to the plate. Escobar sent a hanging slider to deep center field, plating the first run of the game on the second double of the inning. Following James Loney’s pop-out (for the second out of the inning), Jose Lobaton worked a seven pitch at bat, ultimately drawing a walk to put two on with two-outs. Sam Fuld was next, coming up big with a two-RBI single to center.
Desmond Jennings wanted a piece of the action. The speedy center-fielder surprised the Yankees with a two out bunt base-hit, and Fuld and Jennings were able to advance to second and third (respectively) when Austin Romine over threw first base in his errant attempt to gun Jennings down. Prior to the game, Evan Longoria was hitting .383 off CC Sabathia. In his next at-bat, Longo was able to tack on hit number 19 against Sabathia, sending a hanging slider into center field for an RBI double and giving the Rays a 5-0 lead. Tampa Bay was able to tag CC for one more run in the second on a Wil Myers single to left.
James Loney would add four more runs in the fifth and seventh innings (respectively), on an RBI single to center, and a three-run homer to right. Those would prove to be important runs — the Yankees whittled the lead to four in the eighth and ninth innings.
Warts and all, Jeremy Hellickson was able to post a quality outing after giving up only one run in six innings of work.
Helly got himself into a world of trouble in the third inning, loading the bases on three singles, a fielder’s choice, and a walk. But he impressively put together a good sequence against Alfonso Soriano, culminating in a weakly hit fly-out to right field. He shakily started the fourth inning as well, giving up a base hit to Lyle Overbay, and promptly walking Eduardo Nunez on five pitches. Jim Hickey noticed something, and he came to the mound to give Hellickson a breather. Whatever he said worked. Hellickson struck out Travis Hafner on a change-up, then retired the next eight hitters he faced in order.
31 of Hellickson’s total 102 pitches were change-ups. What’s more, eight of his twelve swinging strikes were on that pitch. Hellickson ultimately threw his change-up for a strike 77% of the time, while very other pitch he threw went for a strike 46% of the time. In the end, I’d say that Helly did a good job of making the proper adjustment to keep the wolves at bay.
Kyle Farnsworth put together an efficient 1-2-3 seventh in relief of Hellickson. However, as Ian Malinowski of DRaysBay put it, “The other pitchers at the bottom of the Rays bullpen totem pole did not make compelling cases for retaining their spots when the bullpen is reinforced. Cesar Ramos gave up two runs in the eighth, and Jamey Wright was pulled with two runs in already and the bases loaded after only getting one out.”
Joe Maddon brought in Jake McGee and Fernando Rodney to face Alfonso Soriano and Chris Stewart to get the last two outs of the ninth. McGee induced a fielder’s choice, and Rodney got Stewart to ground to third to end the game.
To be fair, Jamey Wright seemed to have the BABIP luck dragons nipping at his heels last night. Two of his three hits squeaked by the infielders, including a Brent Lillibridge single into center just beneath the glove of a diving Ben Zobrist. Gardner also hit a weak infield single that neither Longo, Wright, or Lobaton could field cleanly. I’d also like to point out that Wright was robbed of three of called strikes (see numbers one, one, and five at the top, bottom, and bottom right on the pitch f/x chart below).
For the outcome oriented, all that mattered was the 10-6 win.
The New What Next
Chris Archer will butt heads with Ivan Nova in the second game of this three-game series. You can read about the pitching match-up here. Let’s Go Rays and Orioles!
Rays 7/27/13 Starting Lineup
- Wil Myers is again hitting third today. Speaking of Myers, his seven-game multi-hit streak finds him tied with Marco Scutaro for longest in MLB this year, and the longest by an AL rookie since Ichiro in ’01.
- The best tweet of the day award goes to Marc Topkin, “Girardi just said Jeter will play in a simulated game today at an undisclosed location. Seriously.”