So many players have passed through St. Petersburg as part of their baseball careers. In some cases, you love them when they’re on your side, and hate them when they’re not. Ex-Ray Jonny Gomes made us remember all the homers he hit for the Rays- but unfortunately, in the wrong way.
Jeremy Hellickson had nowhere near his finest night. He never could get going. He struggled through a 28-pitch first inning, allowing a Josh Reddick solo home run, and then he threw another 24 pitches in the 2nd innings even though he did not allow a run. He then threw another 28 pitches in the 3rd, allowing a Kila Ka’aihue RBI single to put the Rays in a 2-0 hole. After 3 innings, he was already at 80 pitches. The leadoff hitter in the 3rd, Elliot Johnson, drilled a solo homer in the bottom of the inning on a Bartolo Colon fastball middle-in, but Hellickson continued to struggle in the 4th. It took him 22 pitches to record 2 outs, bringing his pitch total in the game to a scary 102 after just 3.2 innings, and Joe Maddon had seen enough, bringing in J.P. Howell, who allowed an RBI single to Josh Reddick before escaping further trouble. Hellickson went just 3.2 innings, allowing 3 runs, 2 earned, on 5 hits, striking out just 2 while walking 3. His control was lacking as just 59 of his pitches were strikes, and his command was as well as he allowed 6 flyouts to just 3 groundouts. His biggest problem was his fastball command as he managed just 1 swing-and-miss on the pitch according to Brooks Baseball despite throwing it 67 times (between his four-seamer, two-seamer, and cutter). His changeup wasn’t good enough to compensate and he simply could not put away hitters. Hellickson’s struggles put a ton of pressure on the Rays’ bullpen.
While Hellickson could never get himself going, the Rays offense built some momentum after the Elliot Johnson home run. Ben Zobrist, who led off the 4th, slammed another misplaced fastball by Colon just right of dead center into the seats to pull the Rays within one. And then the Rays got their third leadoff home run in 3 innings when Carlos Pena found a hanging slider and destroyed it, depositing it well into the right field seats to tie the game at 3. Colon went 5 innings for the A’s, allowing 3 runs on 8 hits, striking out 2 while walking 2.
The bullpens in the game were outstanding. Lefties J.P. Howell and Jake McGee pitched the 5th through 7th innings, not allowing a single run, but Jordan Noberto pitched 2 perfect innings in the 6th and 7th for Oakland. Burke Badenhop and Fernando Rodney combined to pitch a scoreless 8th for the Rays, but Ryan Cook did the same for Oakland. After Rodney pitched a perfect 9th, Ryan Cook worked around a Jeff Keppinger single and an Elliot Johnson sac bunt to retire the side and send the game into extra-innings.
Brandon Gomes came in to pitch the 10th for the Rays and things immediately got sketchy. Jonny Gomes walked to begin the inning, and two batters later, Gomes hit Kurt Suzuki with a pitch before walking Daric Barton to gives the A’s the bases loaded with 1 out. But Gomes buckled down right there, striking out Brandon Inge before forcing Jemile Weeks to ground out to keep the game tied at 3.
Carlos Pena wanted to end the game quickly in the bottom of the 10th. A’s reliever Brian Fuentes left a sinker too high and mid-out, and Pena drove it to the opposite field. Athletics left fielder and ex-Ray Jonny Gomes went back to the wall, leaped, and made and excellent catch to rob Pena of a double and maybe more. Fuentes went on to pitch a scoreless inning.
After Brandon Gomes had a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the 11th, the Rays had a golden opportunity in the bottom of the inning. Sean Rodriguez led off the inning with a pop-up to shallow right field. The first baseman Barton, the second baseman Weeks, and the right fielder Reddick all converged on the play, but Weeks overran the ball and collided with Barton, and the ball dropped as Rodriguez ended up at second base on what was ruled a double. Chris Gimenez then bunted Rodriguez to third as the Rays were 90 feet from victory. But with Rodriguez heading towards home on a 1-2 squeeze play, Elliot Johnson got a pitch up and away and fouled off his bunt attempt for a strikeout. Desmond Jennings followed with a flyout, and the game went to the 12th.
Joel Peralta came into the game for the Rays in the 12th to face Jonny Gomes. Once again, the results of the encounter were not favorable for the Rays. Peralta left a 1-2 splitter up, and Gomes got ahold of it for a solo home run to left to give the A’s a 4-3 lead. Peralta would strike out the side in the inning, but now the Rays were trailing.
B.J. Upton led off the 12th for the Rays against another former Ray, A’s closer Grant Balfour, with an 8-pitch at-bat, working the count from 1-2 to 3-2 before finally getting a fastball to hit. He laced a single to left field to give the Rays the tying run on base. But Carlos Pena popped out and Matt Joyce got ahead 3-0 before swinging and hitting a weak grounder to short that resulted in a game-ending 6-4-3 double play as the A’s won the game 4-3. Fuentes (2-0) earned the win, Peralta (0-1) the loss, and Balfour earned his 7th save. Gomes came up big for the A’s, coming up with the huge defensive play in the 10th and the go-ahead run in the 12th. The Rays got the three solo home runs but went 0 for 7 with runners in scoring position, and that proved to be costly. The Rays winning streak is over at 6 games, and their 10-game home winning streak is history as well. The Rays look to come back with a win at 1:40 PM on Sunday to clinch 2 out of 3 versus the A’s. This was a frustrating loss, but you can’t win every game, and if the Rays can come away with another series win, things will continue to look up for this talented group of players.