If there is such a thing as a must-win game in July, tonight was it. Jeremy Hellickson and company delivered with a clutch pitching performance that gave the Rays a 3-2 win over the Yankees.
Hellickson, who hasn’t pitched since July 3rd because Maddon wanted to give him some rest, was really extended tonight. He threw 119 pitches over seven very good innings. He did strike out five through the first two innings, but only ended up with seven for the entire game. The one blemish was a two run homer by Robinson Cano in the third.
Bartolo Colon was battered around by the Rays on July 7th, but tonight he was out-pitching Hellickson. He allowed a run in the fifth, but took a 2-1 lead into the seventh. He allowed two singles with one, but with Sam Fuld coming up, Joe Girardi took him out in favor of the lefty Boone Logan. Predictably, Joe Maddon pinch-hit Justin Ruggiano who delivered a single, thanks to the roof, to the load the bases. The Rays tied the game when Logan botched a potential inning-ending double play. They took the lead on some daring baserunning by Sean Rodriguez. Johnny Damon hit a little flare to center. Curtis Granderson made a nice diving catch and Rodriguez scored while Granderson was on his back.
The attention turned to the bullpen. Maddon decided on a new cast of characters tonight. Jake McGee worked a scoreless eighth and got a clutch double play grounded into by Cano. Joel Peralta got his first save of the year by pitching a one-two-three ninth. He even dodged a little controversy. Peralta is known for trying to quick-pitch batters to throw off their rhythm, but as he was trying to fool Jorge Posada, the umpire ruled no pitch. Credit to Peralta for putting that aside and putting the game away.
With a Red Sox loss, all is well again in Tampa Bay.
Player of the game: Jeremy Hellickson