Matt Joyce entered tonight's game with 2 career grand slams; he ended tonight's game with 3. On a 2-0 count, Joyce took a "happy zone" fastball off Braves' starter Randall Delgado and hit a grand slam to straightaway center. Much like last season, Joyce is starting off this season hot, as he is now hitting .294 with 8 homers and 23 RBIs, with his average leading all of the team's starting position players. Not to be left out of the fun, Sean Rodriguez hit a solo shot off reliever Cristhian Martinez to left, giving the Rays as 5-2 lead, which would be all the runs they needed to score, as the bullpen has yet again proven to be reliable thus far.
After losing last night's game, the Rays needed this game in order to put themselves in a position to win the series tomorrow. Historically, the Braves have the Rays' number, but with pitching performances like the one Alex Cobb gave today, that losing record [against the Braves] could be rectified sooner rather than later. Cobb started the game with 5 hits and 2 ER over the first three innings, and looked like it was going to be a long night for him. However, Cobb would quickly settle down, pitching the next four innings masterfully and only giving up a single hit. Not missing a beat after being called up from Triple-A Durham, Cobb struck out 6 over his 7 innings of work, and gave the offense an easy task in order to ensure the win, and his first win of the season. As is usually the case with the Rays, strong starting pitching continues to be the "make or break" factor with the Rays, and tonight was a perfect representation of it.
The Rays improve to 25-16 (15-5 at home), and remain two games behind Baltimore who won their fifth straight. Their lead over New York extends to 5.5 games after their loss to Cincinnati yesterday. Their lead over Boston remains 7.5 games.
Notables from this afternoon's game:
M. Joyce(TAM): 1-3, R, GS, 4 RBI, BB
S. Rodriguez(TAM): 1-3, R, HR, RBI
B. Upton(TAM): 2-3, R, BB, 2 SB
A. Cobb(TAM): 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 6 K
The Rays look to win the their first Interleague Series of the season tomorrow as Tim Hudson (2-1, 3.96 ERA) squares off against David Price (6-2, 3.10 ERA) tomorrow afternoon at 1:40 pm
Rays news and notes:
- Closer Fernando Rodney, recently acquired as a free agent after being [mostly] ineffective as a reliever for the Angels, is now a perfect 13-13 in Save Opportunities this year, which is by far the best streak of his career as a closer. Rodeny is now second in the majors in Saves, trailing Orioles closer Jim Johnson (14 saves) by one.
- Desmond Jennings told Rays' reporters that his knee is "feeling good", and should be expected to return to the lineup within the next week, given his recovery doesn't take any unexpected turns.
- Jonah Keri, writer at Grantland.com and author of the best-selling book about the Tampa Bay Rays, The Extra 2%, was a guest on FanVsFan Radio on Friday night. He discussed the Rays and talked a bit about his book; here's the audio below: