Once again the Rays lack of offense do them in as they get swept by the Boston Red Sox 3-2 and fall to 4-8 on the season.
A dominant pitching performance by Jeremy Hellickson goes to waste as the Rays fall in walk-off fashion to the Red Sox. Coming off two average perfomances Jeremy Hellickson has an amazing outing, pitching 7 innings of 2 run ball, giving up just 3 hits while walking 1 and striking out 9. This is the step Hellickson needs to make if the Rays are to be successful this year. Unfortunately for the Rays Ryan Dempster was just as effective for the Red Sox, holding the sub par Rays offense in check striking out 10 Rays hitters over seven innings. The Red Sox have swept the three game series while holding Tampa Bay’s offense to just a .140 batting average while managing to strike out 32.
Hellickson had a terrible start to the game by giving up a lead-off triple to Jacoby Ellsbury over the head of Desmond Jennings in deep centerfield in the first. Ellsbury managed to score on a groundball to the right side of the infield by Shane Victorino, as the Rays had no chance to catch the speedy Ellsbury at the plate. It was a fairly quiet game until the top of the fourth when Evan Longoria hammered a solo shot well over the green monster to tie the game at one apiece.
Hellickson was in the zone and continued to cruise until he made just his second mistake of the game in the bottom of the fifth inning, as he left a fastball high in zone and was taken deep by Jarrod Saltalamacchia just over the head of Ben Zobrist in right field, giving the Red Sox a 2-1 lead.
The Rays began to threaten in the top of the sixth as Kelly Johnson managed a walk off of Ryan Dempster and stole 2nd to be in scoring position. Zobrist came up looking to tie the game and drew a wild pitch as Dempster bounced a low splitter in the dirt allowing Johnson to advance to third base. Dempster at that point began to nibble at the strike zone as Zobrist drew a big walk to put runners at first and third for Evan Longoria. Longoria hit hot shot up the middle but was robbed by a diving Stephen Drew and called out on a bang bang play at first. Replays showed he was clearly safe by half a step but Tampa Bay seems to keep getting the calls against them, as flashbacks of Rangers’ pitcher Joe Nathan‘s awful strike call keep running through our minds. Longoria made a spectacular diving stop and throw to rob Dustin Pedroia of a hit to end the sixth. First base umpire Angel Hernandez may have had a worse game than the Rays offense as he called Pedroia out on that play, perhaps a makeup call for Longoria getting robbed, again as replays showed James Loney‘s foot was a few inches off the bag.
In dramatic fashion the Rays were able to get things going again in the ninth after Jake McGee held the Red Sox scoreless in the eighth. Desmond Jennings lead off the ninth with a single bringing Ben Zobrist to the plate. After fighting Andrew Baily to a full count Zobrist laced a low liner to left that landed just under the glove of a diving Jackie Bradley Jr., scoring Jennings to tie the game at 2 apiece. Andrew Baily managed to rebound striking out Longoria and Matt Joyce back-to-back and forcing Ryan Roberts to pop up ending the Rays threat.
Joel Peralta came in to try and hold the Red Sox to bring the game into extra frames. Matt Joyce made a spectacular running catch for the only out Peralta recorded. Dustin Pedroia managed to draw a walk with one out. With a man on first Napoli crushed a ball high off the monster as Pedroia legged out all the way from first to score the winning run effectively giving the Red Sox a sweep of the series. Peralta threw a great pitch low and on the outside corner but Napoli reached down for it for a walk off win.
The Rays were again plagued by a lack of offense and late inning pitching but Longoria managed his first homerun of the season and has looked healthy so far. It’s also nice to see Hellickson possibly making that step forward after an amazing performance. Up next for the Rays is a series at Baltimore beginning tomorrow night at 7:05pm with Roberto Hernandez (0-2, 6.08 ERA) versus Jake Arrieta (0-0, 7.20 ERA).