Evan Longoria's return has sparked new life in a team that lacks any sort of leadership offensively, with the Rays going to a 14-3 record since Longoria was activated from the Disabled List. Tonight, they looked to go 15-3 and close the gap between the Yankees and themselves to 1.5 games, but the still-hot Oakland A's stood in the way, and they're a pesky team to try and beat.
Ben Zobrist got the scoring started in the second inning with a solo shot off of A's starter Jarred Parker, but the A's would respond later in the fourth inning, tagging Matt Moore for two runs, both RBI singles. That very same inning, Jeff Keppinger continued to be a surprise run-producer for the Rays, tying the game by way of a sacrifice fly, which scored Zobrist.
BJ Upton gave the Rays a 3-2 lead in the fifth inning when he doubled home Jose Molina. But the A's never seem to say "uncle", and that was evident in the seventh and eighth innings. In the seventh, catcher Derek Norris doubled home a run to tie the game at 3, and in the eighth, ex-Rays outfielder Jonny Gomes made reliever Joel Peralta pay dearly, launching a two-run homer to left field (412 feet according to Hit Tracker), giving the A's the lead yet again.
Unfortunately, the miracleworker Rays could not pull out enough magic to tie or even win the game. Luke Scott (recently activated from the Disabled List as well) doubled home a run in the 9th to make it 5-4, but that would be the last run the Rays scored.
Matt Moore and Jarrod Parker entered tonight's game looking to capitalize on their recent streaks as of late. Pitch for pitch, Moore and Parker matched each other, with their stats looking eerily similar: 6 IP, 7 H, 3 ER to go along with 7 strikeouts.
The real difference-maker in tonight's game was the bullpens: the A's bullpen only gave up a single run after Parker was taken out of the game, while Joel Peralta gave up the go-ahead (and winning) home run to Jonny Gomes. This is an extremely rare occasion for the Rays 'pen, as they have been one of the top bullpens in all of baseball this year, mainly due to the lights-out pitching of closer Fernando Rodney.
While the loss does kill the great momentum that Longoria's return has brought about, there is no reason for the team to hang their heads at all on this one. The bad thing is that the Yankees won tonight (beat the Indians 3-1 on the night of CC Sabathia's return from the DL), which means they are now 3.5 games ahead of the Rays, but that number is nowhere near out of reach for the Rays.
Notable stats from tonight's game:
M. Moore: 6.1 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, BB, 7 K
B. Zobrist: 2-3, 2 R, HR, RBI