The Rays, mired in their biggest slump in some time, finally hit their way to victory Wednesday night — taking the last game of the home stand by a score of 6-3 over the Cardinals.
The franchise record streak of scoreless innings sat at 31 innings, when a little luck started to benefit the Rays’ side. James Loney singled on a check swing down the third base line. Ben Zobrist was next, hitting a seeing eye single between shortstop and left field. Matt Joyce, whose OPS has dropped by some 400 points over the last month plus, finally got the Rays on the board — lining a ball up the middle, and driving in two. Michael Wacha loaded the bases on back-to-back walks of Yunel Escobar and Ryan Hanigan, setting up Desmond Jennings who plated two more runs, and gave the Rays a 4-3 lead. Yes friends, a lead!
It was written, “For a change it was the Rays getting the lucky bounces. For a change it was the Rays scoring runs with two outs. For a change it was the Rays actually winning a game.” And my goodness, if the atmosphere of the Trop didn’t take an air of… Fun!
Tampa Bay tacked on a pair of insurance runs in the seventh, thanks to an RBI single to right by Evan Longoria, and sacrifice fly off the bat of James Loney. Kevin Kiermaier scored on Loney’s sac-fly, which wasn’t hit overly deep to left. You can thank The Outlaw’s aggressive base running and speed for the run. For once, every starter reached base, while the team — at 3-7 wRISP on the night — was finally able to make something of its opportunities. Isn’t it amazing what can happen when the team is able to generate runs?!
Starting pitcher Erik Bedard lasted only four innings after giving up three runs on eight hits and a walk. And though he didn’t get hit hard — of the eight hits he allowed, only one went for extra bases — he struggled from the onset. That is, things could have gotten worse hadn’t Joe Maddon made the decision to pull the lefty. Brad Boxberger came on in relief and loaded the bases with two outs, bringing Peter Bourjos to the plate. Bourjos made a valiant attempt to put the Cardinals up by two on a liner to the right-field gap, but Kevin Kiermaier made a tremendous diving catch to rob him of extra bases.
With the Rays ahead by one with two outs in the seventh, Grant Balfour was called upon. The Metallica loving Australian recorded the out to end the inning, coaxing a grounder to short out of Ellis. Balfour pitched a perfect eighth, then came back out to do the same in the ninth — closing out the game, picking up a 2-1/3 inning save on 37 pitches. Balfour may no longer be the closer, but you’d never know it by how dominant he was last night.