The Rays have proven the past two nights that not only can they win, but also they can deliver in the late September grind. At times, their winning record was kept alive only by defense and pitching, and the pitching was displayed in grand fashion tonight. Veteran pitcher James Shields took the mound to deliver a solid performance and earn the Rays the American League’s single-season strikeout record. But, the hunt for October has clearly turned into a manhunt, as the Rays’ bats came alive.
Ben Zobrist set the game’s tone with a solo homerun in the first inning off of Toronto’s pitcher Carlos Villanueva. Tampa Bay’s pitcher James Shields followed by stricking out Toronto’s J.P. Arencibia on a 2-2 changeup in the top of the second inning, giving the Rays their 1,267th strikeout of the season and earning the American League single-season strikeout record.
The Rays scored two more runs in the bottom of the second inning after Carlos Pena hit a triple on a line drive to Toronto center fielder Colby Rasmus. Jose Molina kept up the trend by hitting a two-run homer in the bottom of the inning. Chad Beck replaced Toronto’s pitcher, Villanueva, after 2.1 innings. Villanueva had eight hits and no strikeouts.
Toronto’s Colby Rasmus continued to struggle in center field during the third and fourth innings, as Luke Scott doubled on a fly ball and Jeff Keppinger singled on a line drive. Luke Scott did further damage to Toronto’s defense with another double in the fifth inning. He scored off of Jose Molina’s ground out, making the score 12-0.
James Shields pitched seven innings with nine strikeouts and six hits. Relief pitcher Brandon Gomes replaced him and gave up one run in the eighth inning to Colby Rasmus as the Blue Jays’ Yan Gomes’ doubled to left field.
If the Rays’ 13-3 victory over Boston Wednesday night wasn’t enough to make fans believe in a postseason appearance, their offensive power tonight proved it tonight. Beating Toronto 12-1 offers hope that the Rays will still be around in October.