Joe Maddon had been composing what may have been his greatest masterpiece as manager of the Rays. Playing the matchups with his bullpen and making pitching changes with the confidence of a virtuoso, his magnum opus on the game of baseball all but completed. Then, in the span of three pitches, his work went up in smoke.
Jeremy Hellickson got the start for the Rays against Jake Peavy, and was sharp in the first, getting through the inning on eleven pitches. However, the bad Hellickson reappeared in the second, as he gave up two walks and a single to load the bases with no outs. Maddon, looking to minimize the damage, pulled Hellickson for Jamey Wright. That move paid immediate dividends, as Wright struck out Jarrod Saltalamacchia and got Stephen Drew to ground into a double play to end the inning without allowing a run.
That began a procession of pitchers coming from the bullpen. Wright was relieved by Game One starter Matt Moore, who was in turn relieved by Alex Torres. That combination of pitching managed to hold the Red Sox offense to two hits and two walks in five relief innings.
Peavy had also held the Rays offense in check until the bottom of the sixth inning. Then, the bats came alive for a brief moment. Yunel Escobar just missed leading off the frame with a home run, winding up with a double. One out later, David DeJesus singled to right, plating Escobar as the Rays took the lead.
Jake McGee came in for the seventh, putting runners on the corners with two outs before Maddon went to the typically dependable Joel Peralta to attempt to escape the inning. At that point, everything fell apart. Peralta threw a pitch in the dirt that yesterday’s hero Jose Lobaon was unable to block for a wild pitch while Jacoby Ellsbury was on the move, allowing the tying run to score while Ellsbury moved to third. Two pitches later, Shane Victorino, who had been punishing the Rays seemingly all series, hit a soft grounder to short for an infield hit, giving the Red Sox the lead.
The Rays just were unable to come back. Craig Breslow did his best impression of Mariano Rivera, recording four consecutive strikeouts in relief as he held the Rays in check. Things got worse for the Rays in the top of the ninth. Fernando Rodney loaded the bases with one out, and Dustin Pedroia hit a sacrifice fly to expand the Boston lead. Koji Uehara came back after allowing the game winning home run last night to record a four inning save as the Red Sox sent the Rays into the offseason by the score of 3-1.
McGee was tagged for the loss, allowing two runs on a hit and a walk while recording two outs. Escobar did all he could with the bat, going 3-3 with a double and a run scored, but the Rays offense could not get enough and the bullpen finally did come apart.