The Rays (25-18) got on the board early, and watched as their once-grand lead became a tenuous one run by the bottom of the ninth. Despite the Toronto Blue Jays (21-21) attempted comeback, the Rays were able to snap their opponent's winning streak and take the first game of the series 6-5.
The Rays starter, Jeremy Hellickson (5-2) had a strong showing through the first 5 innings, holding the Jays to 2 runs and setting up the Rays with a 6-2 lead. He began struggle in the 6th, however, and was not able to finish the frame. His final line of the night, though not impressive, did show a much needed boost in strikeouts: 5.2 IP, 6 K, 3 BB, 5 H, 4 R, and 3 ER.
Jesse Litsch had no such fortunes against the Rays. He managed to finish 5 innings, but was tortured by wildness and -- again -- the long ball. Litsch finished the night with 2 hit batsmen, 3 walks, a home run, and 5 earned runs against him.
Offensively, it looked like the Rays were going to dominate early, but after scoring 3 in the 2nd inning and 3 in the 3rd, Litsch and a slew of Jays relievers silenced the Rays batters.
Notes from the game:
- The combination of Juan Cruz, Cesar Ramos, Joel Peralta, and Kyle Farnsworth (9th save) helped shut down the game tonight, allowing only 1 run in a combined 3.1 innings pitched. For an area of concern this off season, the Rays' 2011 bullpen has proven itself to again be a strength in the early going.
- Elliot Johnson had another scorching game at the plate, hitting 2 for 3 with a triple and a sacrifice fly. He and Matt Joyce (who hit his 7th home run of the season) provided the heft of the Rays offense tonight.
- Johnny Damon had another good night, hitting 2 singles in 4 ABs, while also stealing his 6th base and working a walk. Given the Rays history of unsuccessful designated hitters, Damon could easily become the best DH in team history by just putting together an average season.
- Casey Kotchman had a rough night at the plate. He went 1 for 5, but even his 1 hit was a ground ball the Blue Jays misplayed, allowing Kotchman to hussle to first base. He is now 5 for his last 23 (a .217 batting average) with 0 walks and 0 extra base hits. His batting average has also fallen 43 points from its high on May 7th (.373) to today (.330). Hopefully, this should not surprise the Rays as Kotchman appeared to be playing way over his head earlier in the month.
- The Rays held their 2-game lead over the New York Yankees (22-19) tonight, who won over the Orioles in the 15th inning.