It looks like the Rays may finally be hitting their stride in 2013. Good pitching and defense handed the Rays' their fifth consecutive win Sunday afternoon, as they defeated San Diego 4-3.
Roberto Hernandez got the call for the series finale, and collected his second win of the season with a solid six innings of work.
On the hill for the Padres was left-hander Eric Stults, who kept Tampa's hot-hitting bats relatively quiet early on. The first run of the game came in the bottom of the second, when Jose Molina gave the Rays a 1-0 with a bases-loaded sac fly.
Hernandez found himself in his first jam in the fourth inning. After allowing a game-tying single to Yonder Alonso, he had to deal with runners on the corners and just one out. Hernandez managed to escape the mess without giving up any more runs, getting Chris Denorfia to ground into a double play.
The Padres' offense would go back to work in the fifth, though, as a solo homer off the bat of the 5-foot-8, 150 pound Alexi Amarista gave them a 2-1 advantage.
In the bottom half of the inning, Sam Fuld lined a leadoff triple, but the Rays failed to move a runner at third with nobody out. Bad base running on Fuld's part cost Tampa Bay a run, as Ryan Roberts' line out to left field would have scored Fuld if he had been stationed at the bag. Also, Ben Zobrist—who hadn't grounded into a single double play before Sunday—grounded into his second of the day to end the fifth inning.
The sixth was a whole different story for the Rays' offense, as the wheels appeared to fall off Stults. Sean Rodriguez's single drove in Evan Longoria after his leadoff double to tie the game 2-2. Yunel Escobar then delivered off reliever Brad Brach with a RBI double to deep right field.
Jake McGee replaced Hernandez to begin the seventh. Hernandez's line for the day: 2 R, 5 H, 4 K, 2 BB, 6 IP (95 pitches, 59 strikes).
McGee looked more like his 2012 self Sunday, enjoying a quick 1-2-3 inning with his usual heavy gas and even incorporating two sliders against the left-handed hitting Alexi Amarista.
Joel Peralta pitched a scoreless eighth, and had some breathing room thanks to James Loney's solo blast.
Fernando Rodney then closed it out for his sixth save of the year.
The Rays improve to 19-18 on the season and remain 4 1/2 games out of first in the division. They have an offday Monday, an then take on the struggling Boston Red Sox at home for a big three-game series. Matt Moore (6-0, 2.14 ERA) goes for his seventh win Tuesday night versus John Lackey (1-3, 2.82 ERA); first pitch 7:10 ET.
News and Notes:
- There was plenty of highlight-reel defense on display Sunday. Sam Fuld made an incredible leaping catch, Matt Joyce made impressive over-the-shoulder basket catch, and Chris Denorfia's great diving catch.
- Desmond Jennings has now missed the last three games with a sore groin. He should be good to go for the Red Sox series, though.
- Around the AL East: The Blue Jays destroyed the Red Sox 12-4, the Yankees swept the Royals with a 4-2 victory, and the Orioles shutout the Twins 6-0.