Jeff Niemann was an out away from a complete game tonight as the Rays beat the Oakland A’s by a score of 8-4. Rays radio man Dave Wills pointed out in his inaugural tweet today, that if Niemann stayed on a roll, ground would be gained on either New York or Boston, since they are playing each other this weekend at Fenway.
Niemann was absolutely on a roll tonight as he went eight and two-thirds innings, with plenty of run support backing him up. For those fans who are still scoreboard watching, which I am since I am a positive thinker, the Rays gained ground on the Red Sox with tonight’s win at the Trop.
Niemann had a shaky first inning with a lead off walk to Jemile Weeks who then stole second, but on an attempt to steal third, Weeks was caught by the throw from Robinson Chirinos. After the A’s scoring attempt was short circuited, the inning came to an end with no damage done.
The Rays passed up a golden scoring opportunity in the second when a balk call on Guillermo Moscoso went in their favor. Thanks to the late call, B.J. Upton narrowly avoided being caught in a rundown. but they would have nothing to show for it as Chirinos grounded out, and Sean Rodriguez struck out. I couldn’t help but wonder if the offensive woes were back again.
The Rays had the bases loaded in the fourth and managed to push a run across to take a 1-0 lead. Chirinos continued his clutch performance from last night, bouncing the ball to Moscoso who had trouble finding it as Ben Zobrist scored.
The Rays added to their lead in the fifth, thanks to an RBI double by Evan Longoria, scoring Johnny Damon. Casey Kotchman added a double of his own. Fautino De Los Santos came in for relief of Moscoso. Kotchman reached third on a while pitch and Matt Joyce sent him home with a single. Oakland threatened in the sixth when Coco Crisp hit a two run bomb, but the Rays offense answered right back, regaining a comfortable lead.
Nieman took an 8-2 lead into the ninth but ran out of steam allowing two more runs, and Joe Maddon took him out with one out to get. Kyle Farnsworth came in and secured the win for the Rays in yet another finish that felt certain, but still made the heart race a little at the end. Nearly everyone played a part in the Victory, but Jeff Niemann was easily the hero with a fantastic pitching performance.