Miscues almost cost the Rays another game Wednesday, but they would prevail to win the series in walk-off fashion. James Shields and Ricky Romero squared off in their star-studded matchup. Shields was on his A-game, but Romero never really found his groove.
Both had some trouble in the first inning, as Jose Bautista gave the Jays an early lead with a solo homer.
They Rays struck right back, however, as recently-acquired Drew Sutton tied the game with an RBI double in the gap. The clubhouse was shocked to hear that Sutton was penciled in the four spot in the lineup for yesterday's game; but Maddon proved once again that he knew what he was doing.
While Shields settled in, the Rays gave him some run support with a pair of runs in the third. Following a hit-by-pitch of Carlos Pena and a double down the line from B.J. Upton, the Rays brought both home with RBI groundouts from Matt Joyce and Luke Scott.
Toronto started to creep back in the fifth, as the errors started to hit again. A dropped catch (which would of lead to a double play) by Elliot Johnson at short eventually cost the Rays a run, as well as a handful of extra unneeded pitches for Shields.
In the eighth inning, Shields was back on the hill in attempt to hold the gave for Rodney in the ninth. He retired the first batter, and then gave up a double to Bautista just out of the reach of left fielder Rich Thompson's glove (a ball that injured Desmond Jennings likely would of caught). Shields was replaced by Joel Peralta, who gave up a game-tying homer to Edwin Encarnacion.
Peralta—who's struggled with the longball all year (five through 19.1 IP)—is not getting the job done in the setup role for the Rays this season. After blowing his third hold yesterday, he now owns a 5.12 ERA with an 0-2 record. It probably won't be long before hard-throwing lefty Jake McGee (1.84 ERA) gets the promotion to the 8th inning man.
In the bottom of the ninth, the Rays had a great chance to end after putting two men on base with only one out. After a Matt Joyce strikeout, Sutton was up at the plate with a chance to be a hero. He grounded a single that just managed to get through, which should of loaded the bases for Luke Scott, who's 2-3 with a HR against Casey Janssen (who was the opposing pitcher) in his career. Instead, Carlos Pena decided to end the game with some aggressive and surprising base-running, scoring from second on a single that stopped just a few feet outside the infield. It was not a bright move by 'Los at all, as he tried to test one of the wisest infielders of all time, Omar Vizquel, who just entered the game for defense. Add that to the fact that he's not fleet-of-foot, and we can assume that it was a play Pena wish he could take back.
The 'pen was able to hold the Jays scoreless in the 10th and 11th inning, giving the Rays another good chance to win it in the 11th. The speedy Rich Thompson reached base to start the inning after being hit by the pitch, and Pena followed with a strikeout. That brought up Upton, who lined a double to left field wall, scoring Thompson rather easily to give the Rays the 5-4 victory.
The Rays improve to 27-18 on the year (17-7 at home), finishing the homestand 4-4. They're now just a game behind Baltimore in the East, as the O's lost 6-5 to Boston yesterday. The Yankees beat Kansas City, and remain 3.5 games behind the Rays.
Notable stat lines:
- J. Shields: 2 ER (3 R), 7 H, BB, 10 K through 7.1 IP. ERA now 3.63.
- C. Pena: 1-3, 2 R, 2 BB
- B.J. Upton: 3-6, R, RBI
- D. Sutton: 2-4, 2 RBI, BB
- L. Scott: 1-3, RBI, 2 BB
- F. Rodney: 0 R, H, K through 2.0 IP
- Full boxscore here
Win expectancy chart:
Rays news and notes:
- Despite all the injuries, Sean Rodriguez and Ben Zobrist were out of the lineup yesterday to have the benefit of back-to-back off the days. They eventually entered the game late.
- Brandon Allen (right quad strain) will likely be activated off the DL and join the Rays this Friday.
- Both Brandon Guyer (shoulder strain) and Desmond Jennings (knee sprain) should be back with the team by early next week.
- Carlos Pena batted leadoff again, and it appears that Maddon's tactics of ending slumps by putting the player in the leadoff spot is continuing to work. Pena has reached on base six times in eleven plate appearances; batting 3-8 with three RBI in the No.1 hole. It's also worked great with Matt Joyce and Evan Longoria in the past, getting them out of their respective hitting funks.
- Roberto Hernandez—who closed for the Devil Rays for three years and saved over 100 games— will represent the Rays at this year's MLB draft.
- SeedlingToStars.com has two great pieces on prospects Felipe Rivero and Mikie Mahtook.
- RaysProspects.com breaks down the Rays' hitting prospects.