In a season where it has seemed like the Tampa Bay Rays struggled to execute in close games, and were let down by the defense or bullpen in crucial moments, the team put on a vintage Tampa Bay Rays display in a 1-0 victory over the Oakland A’s. Jeremy Hellickson was brilliant, the bullpen did its job to close the door, and the defense was nearly perfect to support the masterful pitching performance. In other words, the Rays followed the franchise blueprint of pitching and defense winning games.
Hellickson got his night off to a great start, striking out two of his first three batters faced en route to a 1-2-3 first frame. He would get some run support in the second inning, when Matt Joyce hit a solo home run to right field on a line drive that just cleared the fence.
That homerun was the only mistake for Jarrod Parker, who pitched very well for the Athletics. Other than the Joyce home run, he kept the Rays’ bats in check over the first two innings, despite some early issues with control.
In the top of the third, Desmond Jennings would provide Hellickson with some very unique defensive support. With one out in the inning, Eric Sogard reached on an infield single that took an off bounce off the turf on its way to Evan Longoria. Coco Crisp would then fly out to shallow center, and Sogard took off on contact, and rounded second base hard, intent on reaching third. Desmond was on his way in to catch the ball, and simply continued to the dugout, tagging first base on his way, for an “8-unassisted” double play. Sogard didn’t even attempt to round the bases back to first, so it was a very easy, but unique, double play for Desmond.
The Rays would get some additional strong defense at first base in the fifth, as Derek Norris walked to start the inning. The A’s catcher would drift off of first with Josh Reddick up, and twice Jose Molina would come within milliseconds of catching him off the base, with James Loney‘s tags narrowly missing the A’s backstop. Justice would be served later in the at-bat, as Reddick would line out to Yunel Escobar, and Norris found himself too far off of first for the third time, and it would be his downfall, as Loney snagged a high throw from Yunel just in time.
Jarrod Parker would exit in the seventh inning, logging 6 1/3 innings pitched with 6 hits allowed, issuing 2 walks, striking out 5 and allowing only the one run on the Joyce homer.
Hellickson would be done after the seventh, when he would be replaced by Joel Peralta. Hellickson finished with an impressive line over 7 innings: 3 hits and 1 walk (and none of these runners would advance to second), 6 strikeouts, and no runs allowed. He had excellent control and did not struggle putting batters away, throwing some excellent put-away pitches on his strikeouts.
Peralta and Fernando Rodney would not let Hellickson down, as the A’s would only put one runner on base over the final two innings (Coco Crisp on an error by Ryan Roberts). The Rays would likewise fail to score down the stretch, but the one run from Joyce was all that was needed.
Rays Notes: Jose Molina was the only Rays’ player to get more than one hit, as the Rays’ lineup was held in check by A’s pitching. Ben Zobrist had a chance to hit with the bases loaded and grounded out, moving the Rays’ to 1-14 with the bases loaded in this brief season. Evan Longoria reached base on a single, meaning he has reached safely in every game this season, and dating back to last season the streak is 31 straight games. The Rays were able to keep Jed Lowrie in check, as the shortstop was 0-3 to follow-up his 4-4 performance last night.