Thursday's game was possibly the most frustrating game of the season thus far. Although Jeremy Hellickson's poor start—which was his worst of the season and probably his worst ever at the Trop—may of the set the tone for the game, the Rays were in a way close to winning.
Hellickson's extra bullpen session on Tuesday did not pay its dividends at all, and that was relevant from the first batter of this ballgame. Kirk Nieuwenhuis, who would have a huge day, took Hellickson yard to right field in the second pitch of the game.
The Mets' red-hot bats were back to work in the second inning, as they extended their lead to 2-0 via a Jason Bay solo homer.
However, the Rays would respond with a big inning in the bottom of the third. With two men on and nobody out, Matt Joyce ripped a two-run double off of Mets' lefty Johan Santana to tie the game up at two. Two outs later, Elliot Johnson would give the Rays their first and only lead of the game with an line drive RBI single up the middle.
The lead wouldn't last long though, as New York's shelling of Hellickson continued in the third. The Mets scored two runs to retake the lead, thanks to a sac fly from Lucas Duda and an RBI single from Ike Davis.
Ben Zobrist, who returned to the lineup after missing the first two games of the series, laced an RBI double into left field to tie the game at 4-4 in the bottom half of the inning.
The fourth inning is where things started to unravel, as Rays fans witnessed one of the most frustrating innings in recent history. After two quick outs to start the inning, it appeared as if Hellickson could have his first good inning of his outing. It wasn't to be though, as speedy shortstop Omar Quintanilla extended the inning with an infield single. Quintanilla slid head first into first and was called safe on a very, very close call.
Quintanilla's hustle lead to disaster for the Rays, as Nieuwenhuis—the next batter—blasted his second homer of the game to give the Mets the 6-4 lead. It only got worse from there. The next batter—Jordany Valdespin—was hit by the pitch. Then, he attempted to steal second, and likely would of been out if Zobrist had caught the ball. The missed catch extended the inning and would lead to more runs, as Lucas Duda knocked in two with an double off the center field wall.
Down 8-4, the Rays had a golden opportunity to chip away in the bottom of the sixth. After Santana loaded the bases, big right-hander John Rauch faced the Sean Rodriguez, the game's potential tying run. S-Rod struck out, and the next two batters failed to knock in a run as well.
After 4 1/3 innings of scoreless relief from the Rays' bullpen, the Mets tacked on one more in the ninth. With Fernando Rodney in the game, Ike Davis gave the Mets a five-run lead with his second RBI single of the day.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Rays rallied again, except this time they managed to plate a run. An RBI single from Desmond Jennings and another run on a fielder's choice cut New York's lead to three. Later in the inning, Zobrist—who has hit much better since his extra work with hitting coach Derek Shelton in Miami—was up at the plate with the bases loaded with a chance to win the game. Closer Frank Francisco would end the rally with a strikeout, and finish off the sweep.
The Rays are now 35-28, and continue to fall in the standings. The Yankees were off, so they extend their lead over Tampa to 2.5 games. The Orioles won their fifth consecutive game, and are now two games up on the Rays.
Notable Stat Lines:
Rays News and Notes: