With one swing of the bat, Sean Rodriguez sent a two-run shot over the Green Monster, and once again, the "heart attack kids" scraped out another victory, this time in the 9th inning.
The game initially started out as if it would transpire into a pitcher's dual for the second night in a row, but Clay Buchholz was tagged for the game's first run in the fourth, when Ben Zobrist grounded home Matt Joyce. Will Rhymes singled home Rodriguez in the 7th inning, and with the way Jeremy Hellickson was pitching, it looked like two could be the magic number. But Adrian Gonzalez, who has really been underproducing thus far, woke up in the seventh, pelting a three-run homer not more than six feet from the foul poll on the Monster.
With the Rays down a run, it was time to start a rally, but Franklin Morales shut down the Rays in the eighth. After Zobrist was walked by closer Alfredo Aceves to lead off the 9th, Sean Rodriguez decided it was his time to be the late-inning hero, taking Aceves' pitch over the Monster, and giving the Rays the two runs they needed to win the series.
Fernando Rodney needed to prove that last night was just a fluke, and took the mound in a save situation; he got Saltalamacchia and Punto to groundout to short, and got Daniel Nava to whiff, securing his 16th save this season.
Heated words coming from both team's skippers were making more headlines than their teams' play, so it was nice to be able to focus on the game rather than the drama surrounding this young-but-heated rivalry. Matt Joyce has come into his own, and appears to be the team-leader replacement for Evan Longoria, who is still on the disabled-list. Joyce is hitting .290, with a team-high .552 slugging percentage, and on on-base percentage of .405 (also leading the team). Will Rhymes was a perfect 3 for 3, while Sean Rodriguez and Matt Joyce had two hits each.
The Rays are now tied with Baltimore—who lost 4-2 to Kansas City at home yesterday—for 1st in the divison, and are 3.5 games ahead of the Yankees—who won 2-0 in Oakland yesterday. The Red Sox are now 5.5 games behind, and remain in the division cellar.
Notables from Sunday's game:
- J. Hellickson: 3 ER, 7 H, 2 BB, 3 K through 7.2 IP. ERA now 2.83.
- M. Joyce: 2-3, 2B, R, RBI
- S. Rodriguez: 2-4, 2B, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI
- W. Rhymes: 3-3, RBI
Rays news and notes:
- The Rays return home tomorrow night, starting a three game series against the Chicago White Sox. Chris Sale (5-2, 2.50 ERA) takes the mound for the White Sox, as Matt Moore (1-4, 5.07) looks to finally turn his season around.
- Luke Scott stole a base in consecutive games for the first time in his career.
- Minor league update: Brandon Allen (right quad strain)—who is eligible to join the Rays whenever ready—is now batting .242 (8-for-33) after going 2-4 yesterday with Class- A+ Charlotte. Hideki Matsui raised his average to .178 (8-for-45) after going 1-4 with Durham last night. Jose Lobaton (sore throwing shoulder) went 1-3 in his fourth game with the Bulls on Sunday, and is eligible to rejoin the Rays when ready.