The Rays and Rangers’ offenses were hotter than the weather in Arlington Friday evening, combing for 29 hits and 12 runs. However, The Rays’ early scoring proved to be too much for Texas, as they won 8-4. James Shields managed to go six innings, while Matt Harrison only lasted five.
Tampa did not waste any time in scoring runs in the game. In the 1st, leadoff man Desmond Jennings reached base on a single, and Carlos Pena reached on an error. Evan Longoria then launched a ball over the center field fence for his fourth home run of the season. The offense was not done, as Ben Zobrist walked, Jeff Keppinger singled, and B.J. Upton ripped an RBI single to left. Upton was thrown out at third trying to advance on a pop fly by Daniel Murphy.
James Shields wasn’t as dominating as his previous starts, but few pitchers are against this Texas offense. The Rangers got four hits in the first inning, but only scored on a ground out by Josh Hamilton, as Shields was able to pick off Elvis Andrus and strike out Nelson Cruz.
With Upton and Keppinger on first and second with singles in the 3rd, Chris Gimenez singled off the wall in right field to plate Keppinger. Upton was waved around third, but did not appear to be running all out, as he was tagged out at the plate by Mike Napoli who was blocking his slide. Upton is fortunate that his base running blunders were not costly to the Rays tonight. The heart of the Rangers’ order was shut down by Shields in the 3rd, as he recorded his 4th and 5th strikeouts.
More runs were in order in the top of 4th inning for Tampa. Eliot Johnson doubled on the first pitch of the inning, and Evan Longoria singled him home with two outs, his fourth RBI of the night. On the following pitch, Ben Zobrist drove a ball over the outstretched reach of Josh Hamilton in center field for an RBI double, giving the Rays a 7-1 lead.
In the bottom of the 5th inning, Shields gave up a one out single to Andrus, and then served up a meatball to Hamilton over the middle of the plate that he launched to right center, his 9th (!) homer of the season.
Texas’ Mark Lowe was kind enough to relieve starter Matt Harrison in the top of the 6th inning. After Zobrist grounded into a double play, Luke Scott hit a line drive home run to right field, his 5th of the season. Scott has been a very nice acquisition for the Rays as he has 16 RBI on the season. Daniel Murphy matched Scott’s solo shot with one of his own in the bottom of the 6th inning, but Shields was able to leave runners on first and third to end the inning, his last of the night. He ended up allowing four runs on eleven hits by the Rangers in six innings. He was fortunate to strand seven runners on base, struck out eight while issuing no free passes, and left the game with a large enough lead for the victory.
J.P. Howell, one of the Rays better relievers this season, came in the game in the 7th to strike out Josh Hamilton, hit Adrian Beltre with a pitch, and induce a double play by Michael Young. He came back out in the 8th inning, but gave up back to back singles to Cruz and Murphy. Wade Davis relieved Howell and struck out Napoli for the first out of the inning. The bases became loaded when Longoria bobbled a Mitch Moreland pop fly in shallow right off of his glove and bare hand; he was charged with an error. Nelson Cruz was then tagged out at home trying to score on a wild pitch by Davis. Kinsler ended up walking, but Davis was able to escape any damage as he battled back from a 3-0 count and got Andrus to line out to center on the eleventh pitch of the at bat. The Rays were unable to reach base over the game’s final three innings, but it did not matter as Jake McGee relieved Wade Davis in the 9th to shut down the Rangers 1-2-3.
Jennings, Longoria, Keppinger, Upton, Gimenez, and Johnson all had multi-hit games. Longoria showed why he has been the Rays’ best hitter, as he had four RBI on the night including his first inning home run. The bullpen pitched three scoreless innings, only giving up two hits, and James Shields got the win to improve his record to 4-0. The Rays are now 13-7 on the season, winning their fifth straight, and seventh out of their last eighth. They sit alone atop the A.L. East, and can be proud that they took the first of the three game series against baseball’s best team. Jeff Niemann will square off against Colby Lewis tomorrow evening at 8:05 as the Rays look to make it six straight wins.