There is nothing at all wrong with starting, what could be the most important series of the season, like that. The Tampa Bay Rays offense jumped on the Boston Red Sox and did not let up, winning 9-2. Not to be overshadowed by the offense, Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson turned in a gritty performance pitching five and two-thirds and picking up his 13th win of the season.
After two scoreless innings for both teams, John Jaso got the Rays going with a one out double in the third. Reid Brignac popped out for the second out in the inning followed by a walk to Desmond Jennings. B.J. Upton picked up the first of his three RBI with a single to left, putting the Rays on the board first. It was not any ordinary RBI single. Upton hit a broken bat roller to short and as the ball got to Marco Scutaro, the big part of the bat flew at Scutaro’s feet. Scutaro jumped to dodge the bat, and the ball rolled through his legs. Instead of the inning being over, the Rays had scored and the inning was still alive. Evan Longoria came up next and went opposite field with a three run homer that just cleared the fence into the bullpen. That four spot would be more than enough but the Rays weren’t through.
In the sixth, the Rays again did their damage with two outs. Ben Zobrist led off with a single but was picked off. Johnny Damon was hit by a pitch and Matt Joyce struck out. Casey Kotchman lined a 1-0 fastball into almost the identical spot that Longoria hit his homer earlier, and the Rays led 5-1. Desmond Jennings drew his second walk of the night to lead off the seventh. B.J. Upton then took the first pitch he saw, deep over the Green Monster, to put the Rays ahead by six. They would add another run later in the inning on an RBI single by Kotchman.
Hellickson did not have his best command of the strike zone tonight. He threw 117 pitches in just over five innings of work and only 68 were for strikes. What he did, though, was battle. He allowed only three hits and one run which came off a bases loaded ground out by Adrian Gonzalez. That ground out was only the second out of the inning. Hellickson intentionally walked David Ortiz to load the bases again but got Kevin Youkilis to ground to third to end the inning. He got away with not having his best stuff tonight by staying away from the heart of the plate.
Step one, win the first game, is taken care of. The deficit is cut to three games and there are three games left to play in Boston. The Rays were far from their sharpest tonight, but it was good enough to get the win, and in a big way. Their two stars were the difference. Longoria and Upton finished with 6 RBI between them and when they hit the Rays are tough to beat. Casey Kotchman came through as well, hitting his eleventh homer of the year, with four of them coming against Boston. Overall, it was a good night to be a Rays fan, let’s just hoped they saved some runs for the rest of the weekend. In the last four games against the Red Sox, the Rays have outscored them 31-10.