This was supposed to a pitchers battle, with the Rays’ ace James Shields going against Red Sox ace lefty Jon Lester. Fortunately for Rays fans, only Shields decided to show up to the game this afternoon. With Shield’s pitching and BJ Upton’s huge day, the Rays swept the Red Sox and pulled to 3.5 games back in the AL Wild Card race.
The Rays offense got to Lester early, scoring 3 runs in the first inning going single, single, walk, single, groundout, sac fly, single, ground out, leaving two men on base. They would tack on a run in the third after Sean Rodriguez drove in Johnny Damon, who led off the inning with his 7th triple of the season. They would get 20 men on base for the afternoon, but didn’t pull more than 4 runs until after they had chased Lester in the 5th inning.
That’s when, with 2 outs and the bases loaded BJ Upton took righty Matt Albers DEEEEEEEEEP to left center field for his first career grand slam. BJ Upton would end the day 4-4 with a walk, 4 RBI s and 3 runs scored. At that point in the game the main questions left in fans minds were: Will James Shields get his 12th CG of the season, and could Josh Freeman engineer yet another come-from-behind victory for the Bucs across the Bay.
Unfortunately, neither would come to pass. While Shields pitched marvelously, he walked Darnell McDonald in the top of the ninth and left to a standing ovation from the crowd at the Trop after throwing 121 pitches. He went 8.1 IP, 7H, 1R, 1ER, 1HR, 3BB and 5SO for the day. It wasn’t his most dominating performance, but outside of a 3rd inning where he gave up a solo home run and squirmed out of a bases loaded 1 out jam without allowing any more runs, he was very, very good.
The sweep brings the Rays to within 3.5 games of the Wild card spot, before heading on their last road trip of the season. This could make or break the Rays playoff hopes, as they face the Orioles for a 3 game set in Baltimore, then face these very same Red Sox for a critical 4 game set at Fenway Park. Jeff Niemann battles Zach Britton at 7:05 tomorrow at Camden Yards.