In a game that, for the better part of 7 innings, unfolded the way you’d expect it to with David Price facing off against Josh Beckett, the Rays followed what has been a successful formula all season. It wasn’t pretty, nor was it flashy, but after Joel Peralta bridged the gap to Fernando Rodney, it appeared the Rays were on their way to a 4th straight win. In the 9th, however, Jarrod Saltalamacchia, aided by a leadoff walk to Daniel Nava, hit a 2-run blast into deep right center field, giving the Red Sox a dramatic 3-2 walkoff victory.
Boston got on the board first in the 6th. Following a leadoff walk to Dustin Pedroia and a single by David Ortiz, the Rays were poised to escape the inning unscathed after Kevin Youkilis lined out to short, B.J. Upton delivered a dart to home on a single by Adrian Gonzalez, with Jose Molina applying the tag, to cut down Pedroia at the plate. However, the next batter was Will Middlebrooks, who corkscrewed the ball in the direction of Sean Rodriguez. It was a tough, but very makeable play for Rodriguez, but the ball hit off the heel of his glove into centerfield, scoring Ortiz and giving the Red Sox the lead. The play was scored as a hit, although it’s one Sean needs to, and usually does, make.
The Rays would strike back in the 7th, after being held to just one hit through the first 6 innings by Beckett, B.J. Upton lead off with a single, followed by a Matt Joyce single that advanced Upton to 3rd. Ben Zobrist hit a sacrifice fly to left to score Upton, and with the throw going home despite having no chance to get the speedy Upton, Joyce alertly advanced to second and would score on Luke Scott’s single, giving the Rays a 2-1 lead. Sean Rodriguez would reach on an error following a Drew Sutton strikeout, advancing Scott to third, but ultimately both runners were stranded as Jose Molina struck out to end the inning.
Fast forwarding to the bottom of the 9th, where the aforementioned blown save occurred, Daniel Nava worked a 9 pitch at bat against Rodney to draw the leadoff walk, and Nick Punto successfully sacrificed to advance Nava into scoring position. Having been a perfect 15 for 15 on save opportunities coming into the game, a 1 out baserunner, albeit in scoring position, was nothing Rodney had not encountered before. However, he made a mistake on an 0-1 pitch to the dangerous Saltalamacchia who was brought in to pinch hit, hanging one out over the plate which was hit past the bullpen in right center, giving Boston the 3-2 win and evening up the series at one game a piece.
Losses happen, blown saves happen…but the Rays have become accustomed to being on the winning side of them, having already registered 9th inning comebacks against the likes of Mariano Rivera, Jordan Walden, and David Robertson. The biggest question going forward, mainly for Fernando Rodney, is how does he respond? In a season that has seen Rodney display the control and command that he’s lacked much of his career, is he capable of shaking it off and returning to the form that had him perfect before tonight, or does he let it reverberate into a downward spiral? The feeling on this end is he’ll be just fine, as he’s surrounded by teammates and a staff that has been largely instrumental in making him the closer that he is right now…the one that came into tonight’s game 2nd in the AL in saves. He’ll have to be for the Rays to continue to be successful, as they already are a team that plays many (and has thrived in many) in 1 run games, further exacerbated by their long injury list. The fact that his first blown save came in Boston, amidst the extra-curricular events of the last two days, merely makes it sting a little bit more. Stings, however, can be healed quickly…as the Rays will attempt to take the weekend set tomorrow, with Jeremy Hellickson taking the mound, being opposed by Clay Buchholz.
Game Notes: The homerun allowed by Rodney was the first he’d allowed since April 29, 2011; then a member of the Angels, ironically against the Rays’ B.J. Upton. Rich Hill got the win for Boston, he’s now 1-0 on the season. The Rays had 0 errors charged tonight, breaking a 7 game streak of non-errorless games. The loss, coupled with the Orioles loss earlier, leaves the Rays (28-19) 1 game back of Baltimore in the AL East.