The Rays entered the Trop with yet another very pivotal game on the line, and walked out with a three game sweep of the Blue Jays, and a 5-2 home stand overall. Tampa Bay will head out on a Sox’s kind of trip on Tuesday. They’ll head to Boston for a pair, then make their way to Chicago for four games.
The big news of their most recent home stand was the offensive explosion, with the Rays scoring 46 runs in five games, making their own case in the wildcard race. And though they didn’t put crooked numbers up on the board today, the Rays played, well…Raysball, supported by quality pitching, some outstanding fielding, and a pair of timely hits to give them the three runs which were enough to send Toronto packing on a sour note.
The Rays find themselves in the throes of a five game winning streak, charging full steam ahead into Boston and Chicago, (respectively) where they have the opportunity to make up some major ground in their push for the playoffs. It’s best to remember that the Rays aren’t built to bash out run after run. The 46 runs scored were a luxury of sorts. However, if they can find that comfortable middle ground between beating up on the opposing pitcher and scoring just three runs, I’m fairly confident that they’ll come home on October first on a high note.
I will say that this winning streak, akin to others they’ve put together, has been great. When the pitching staff didn’t have it, the offense took the reins, outscoring both the Sox and the Jays. And when the pitching was dominant, Tampa Bay did just enough to ensure the win. In the case of the game today, the Rays only needed BJ Upton’s first inning, one run blast, to ensure that W. More on the game below.
Jeremy Hellickson had really good stuff in the front five. Things unfortunately fell apart in the sixth inning. Upon entering the Hellickson had thrown only 65 pitches and looked primed to go deep into the game. But Hellickson proceeded to give up a single and a pair of walks to load the bases, while laboring to make it through the inning without giving up a run. Maddon pulled Helly after throwing 30 pitches, in favor of Jake McGee who promptly struck out Kelly Johnson to end the inning and get out of the jam unscathed. Young Jeremy did leave the game with a good 5.2 IP/2 BB/6 K line, throwing 95 pitches with 60 for strikes.
Jake McGee, Kyle Farnsworth, JP Howell, Joel Peralta, and Fernando Rodney followed Hellickson’s lead, slamming the door shut on the Jays. JP Howell made easily one of the best plays in recent history, (below) thwarting Colby Rasmus’ attempted two out sacrifice hit toward the gap between first and second, just over JP’s shoulder. Howell raced for the ball and was able to field it cleanly. With the momentum carrying him toward right field, Howell left his feet, throwing a mid-flight strike to Carlos Pena to get a speedy Rasmus by a few steps. Rodney came on in the ninth and locked down his 44th save of the year, while also lowering his ERA to 0.65. Soriano, watch your back…Rodney’s about to steal your franchise save record!
Offensively speaking, the Rays did just enough to eek out a W, with BJ Upton’s first inning one run blast ultimately being enough to seal the deal. However Evan Longoria’s eighth inning two-run double to right-center, driving in Desmond Jennings and Ben Zobrist, only sweetened things. Longo came within inches of hitting a three-run homer instead of a double, but I’m certainly not complaining. Next stop: Boston.
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- All eyes on Texas. Though technically an adversary, the Rangers are going to be the Rays biggest ally, at least for seven of their remaining games. Texas is looking to lock up the AL West with a seven game home-stand, pitting them against the Oakland Athletics for four games, followed by a three game set against Los Angeles Angels. Granted Tampa Bay needs to continue winning games, that’s a given. But with the Rays 3.5 back of the A’s and 2.5 behind the Angels, the Rangers could do the Rays a big favor by knocking both teams back a few pegs.
- The Rays will also be depending on the Blue Jays to play spoiler to the O’s over the course of the next few days. That seems more like a long shot though. Then again, who the hell knows?
- Yeah well, when you look at the odds, things don’t look so promising. Then again, weirder things have happened. In the words of Joe Maddon, “You’ve got to believe it. If we didn’t learn anything from last year you have to keep playing until you’re mathematically eliminated. In the meantime, believe that you can — and I do.”
- How do the Rays fare now against the Red Sox starters? Let’s see:
- Clay Buccholz: Now I know, I could simply just cut and past last weeks match-up information. And to be fair, not much has changed. Then again, why skimp? I’m lazy…but not that lazy! The Rays have posted a .222 BA/.308 OBP/.348 SLG/.656 OPS line, in 204 official at-bats against. Out of the 46 hits they’ve put up, only four have been homers. Key match-ups: Desmond Jennings (2-7, BB), Matt Joyce (5-15, 2B, 2 RBI, 3 BB), Jose Molina (2B, 3 RBI, BB), Sean Rodriguez (3-10, 2B, RBI), BJ Upton (7-23, 2 2B, HR, RBI, 3 BB)
- Jon Lester: Tampa Bay hasn’t faced Lester in a while, though when they have he’s been tough. Then again, at 9-13 with a 4.96 ERA, he really hasn’t had the best season on the mound. The Rays have posted a .225 BA/.309OBP/.403 SLG/.712 OPS line against, in 253 at-bats. Bright sides? They’ve been able to take Lester yard 12 times, with a gaggle of Rays putting up good numbers on the lefty. Key match-ups: Desmond Jennings (3-9, 2 2B, BB), Elliot Johnson (2-7, HR, 2 RBI), Matt Joyce (2-3, HR, 4 RBI, BB), Evan Longoria (9-37, 3 2B, HR, 6 RBI, 5 BB), Jose Molina (5-15, 2 BB), Carlos Pena (11-39, 2B, 6 HR, 14 RBI, 7 BB)
- Fernando Rodney has nine games to throw 4.1 scoreless innings and beat Eckersley for an MLB history-best 0.60 ERA.
- As per Rotowire: Buchholz pitched seven scoreless innings Thursday, but did not factor in the decision at Tampa Bay. He gave up four hits with four strikeouts. Lester allowed four runs on eights hits, walking three and striking out three over seven innings of a 4-2 loss to Baltimore on Friday night.
- The Rays road trip them is “wiggin’ Out.” Ben Zobrist tweeted a photo of his, urm…road attire. We here think that this is pretty awesome: