You can’t win every game in a series unless you win the first one. Step one, check. The Tampa Bay Rays jumped on the slumping Boston Red Sox early and cruised to a 7-2 victory Friday night. It was the much maligned Tampa offense that keyed the win with some unlikely contributors leading the way.
Things started easy enough for Boston starter John Lackey. He cruised through a perfect first inning and recorded two quick outs after a leadoff single by Ben Zobrist. Then Johnny Damon stole second and Casey Kotchman walked, bringing up John Jaso. First and second with two outs and a guy who’s batting .230 for his last ten games coming up to bat. Nothing to get too worried about, right? Not until Jaso took a 3-1 fastball over the wall in right and put the Rays up 3-0.
They did some more two out damage in the third. After Desmond Jennings flew out to center and B.J. Upton struck out to start the inning, Evan Longoria singled and Zobrist drew a walk. Damon came up and reached on an infield hit and Longoria was able to come around to score on the play. Matt Joyce followed with a single up the middle and the Rays had a five run lead.
It was more than enough for Rays’ starter Wade Davis. Davis, who had struggled mightily in his previous starts against Boston, gave the Rays just the performance they were looking for. He pitched a complete game and gave up only two runs on just six hits. He had eight strikeouts and did not allow a walk. This was one of Davis’ best starts of the season and it comes at a perfect time as it was only his second win since July 28.
The Red Sox, already hurting coming into the weekend, found out before the game that Kevin Youklis would have to return to Boston for an MRI on an ailing hip. It got worse during the game, when John Lackey had to leave in the fourth with a bruised calf, after getting hit by a Jaso line drive.
So the first game is in the books. The Rays did what they had to do. Now they have to do it again. The Red Sox are sure to circle the wagons and are sending 24 year old right-hander Kyle Weiland out on the mound to lead the way. Tampa will need to get to him early, just as they did Lackey tonight, and count on their young pitcher Jeremy Hellickson to keep the Red Sox bats quiet. Maybe they can get another win and the Trop will be more than half full on Sunday.