Jeremy Hellickson, given an extra day of rest by Joe Maddon, initially struggled in his start tonight. He gave up a quick run in the first, but after that he was lights out. In fact, if you tuned in late as I did, you probably missed the run and just saw Hellickson use his change-up to confound hitters all night long. He struck out two in the first and three in the second. After that quick start, he only struck out seven for the game but he also settled down. After throwing 39 pitches in those first two innings, he made it through 7.1 innings on only 107 pitches.
Kansas City starter Luke Hochevar was beating Hellickson pitch for pitch. He too had seven strikeouts and made both Desmond Jennings and Johnny Damon look foolish at the plate. The Rays had a few rallies against him in the early innings, but two double plays in the fourth and fifth kept them off the board. In the seventh, Casey Kotchman delivered a clutch hit by singling home Ben Zobrist for the tying run.
In the eighth, Desmond Jennings reached on a walk with one out. With the entire ballpark knowing that he was going to attempt a steal, he made it to second quite easily with his seventh theft of the year. Unfortunately neither Evan Longoria or Zobrist could deliver him home. Maybe Kotchman should have been hitting higher in the lineup tonight because he had a knack for the big hit. He had to wait for the ninth inning where he jumped on the first pitch from Brandon Wood and hit a homer to dead center field. The Rays players vaulted out of the dugout after his home run and mobbed him at home plate. Kotchman was being interviewed by Todd Kalas after the game when Longoria sneaked up on him with shaving cream in a towel. However, Kotchman used his great reflexes to dodge the towel and came away completely clean.
The dependable Kotchman has shown some power lately. The homer was his seventh of the year, but his third already in August. Kotchman already has five multi-hit games in August and is hitting .519 during what is supposed to be the dog days of the season.
Players of the Game: Casey Kotchman and Jeremy Hellickson