A two run homer from Robinson Cano (you know, the homerun derby champion) and an RBI single from Reid Brignac (thanks to a triple from Sam Fuld) were the only runs scored in a relatively boring first six innings. Great pitching made it a quiet game until things got really interesting in the seventh:
Jeremy Hellickson got into a seventh inning jam, allowing two base runners with two outs. Joe Maddon played his usual game of letting starters go one extra batter, and Hell-boy fortunately got the final out. I like the strategy, it instills confidence and let's pitchers take responsibility for their work, but boy is it dangerous!
Bartolo Colon also pitched a two runner jam in the seventh, but he was pulled with only one out on the board. Trailing, 2-1, Robinson Chirinos initiated the rally with an infield single, beating shortstop Derek Jeter's theatric throw to first. Sean Rodriguez followed Chirinos' lead, lining a single to right field and chasing starter Bartolo Colon from the game.
And you never know what the Trop will bring. On what should have been out two, a routine fly ball to center was lost in the catwalk lights at the last second by Curtis Granderson and the bases were loaded.
Elliot Johnson, pinch hitting for Brignac, ricocheted a fastball in the dirt to pitcher Boone Logan - who popped the ball farther in the air with his glove and allowed a runner to score. An error made it a tie ball game (2-2) on what should have been out three.
Bases Loaded, Johnny Damon. Boasting a .378 average with six career grand slams in bases loaded at-bats, Damon decided to reach to the corner of the strike zone for a blooper - which became a sac fly as hard-running Granderson slid feet first to catch the ball (video). Grandy attempted to throw it home, but actually threw it 18 feet wide of home to let the runners advance.
Tampa Bay up 3-2, Matt Joyce came in to pinch hit for Ben Zobrist. This was not a good sign. Zobrist left the game with swelling in his right leg after fouling a ball into his calf. The injury looked quite painful and was reminiscent of Joyce hurting his knee only a few nights ago. Hopefully Ben will have no issues going forward, the Rays are lucky it missed the shin. Back to the issue at hand, Zorilla was replaced by a lefty with a LHP on the mound. Joyce struck out looking on a nasty slider thrown to the outside bottom corner, limiting the runs scored but still a Tampa Bay lead.
Jake McGee worked a fantastic eighth, reaching 97 mph on a good fastball with a killer slider. He had lightning in his fingertips. The lefty took a ground ball to the leg for his only base runner as he K'd Granderson (not his night) before a double play off Robinson Cano. All the hype of Jake becoming the future closer for Tampa Bay got another spark tonight.
In the bottom, B.J. Upton and Robinson Chirinos worked walks on two outs (six and ten pitches respectively) before Sean Rodriguez flew out to deep left to end the inning.
Kyle Farnsworth was NOT called on for the ninth. After blowing last night's lead, Maddon gave him some rest. Instead, control master Joel Peralta was brought in to close out. Nick Swisher, batting near .330 against right handers, struck out easily.
Up against Jorje Posada, Joel was called on a quick-pitch by the umpire, in other words not waiting long enough for Jorje to take his practice swings (please...) disallowing a fastball high. The next pitch was a ground out to first.
Russell Martin was the last hope for the Yankees, and he pasted a deep fly to left that would be caught at the warning track. That gave Peralta his first save since 2007 and Hellickson the win.
- Tonight's win ends a 10 of 16 game losing streak. Thank God. Now is not the time to lose in the AL East. A Boston loss puts the Rays 6 games back in the division, 1.5 behind New York.
- Hellickson needed 49 pitches for the first two innings, but relied on the curve ball to keep the Yanks at five hits, one walk for two earned runs and a quality start. He would be docked for 4 stolen bases, doubling his stolen bases allowed this season, but much of that can be credited to a rookie catcher on the former two and indifference on a two out double steal in the seventh. But, if you can count something in baseball, why not! (related: Hellickson retired 12 consecutive batters after Cano's homerun and went 119 pitches on the night)
- S-Rod climbed the ladder on a sharp liner from Cano later in the game, making second base look easy to field. (video)
- The Rays hope to take the series win tomorrow night as David Price looks to outperform Freddy Garcia. Advantage: Tampa Bay.
- VP Andre Friedman will join SunSports's Rays Live show tomorrow. 12 days from the trade deadline, that could be worth your time.