Tonight marked a special occasion for the Tampa Bay Rays and Minnesota Twins alike, as it was fan favorite Sam Fuld‘s first game back in the lineup at the Trop as an opposing player (he was not in last night’s lineup). The crowd gave him a nice ovation in his first at-bat, and Fuld seemed happy to be back. But, after the nice moments, there was no messing around, as each team gave all they had in the 12 inning game. Unfortunately, the Rays would come out on the losing side of this one, dropping the game 6-4 and letting their record fall to 10-11.
Jake Odorizzi was the starter for the Rays and was looking to get by a rough past couple of starts, but he could not do so. He has always been a pitcher that has struggled getting the ball down in the zone, but that really showed up Wednesday. He constantly left his pitches too far up and out over the plate, and that led to him giving up four runs in his 3.1 innings of work, two of which came on a Chris Colabello home run (hit conveniently when his Colabello’s mom was being interviewed on live TV) . Odorizzi has work to do on keeping his pitches down in the zone, but Jim Hickey and Joe Maddon usually do a good job of getting pitchers to make adjustments.
For the next 7.2 innings, the bullpen would almost completely shut down the Twins’ lineup. Brandon Gomes came on with one out in the 4th inning after Odorizzi had given up three runs. Though he did allow an inherited runner to score, he allowed no runs of his own. Gomes stayed on to throw a scoreless 5th inning as well. Heath Bell picked things up from Gomes in the 6th and pitched well, striking out a pair of batters in his perfect inning. He has struggled early on this season, but his stuff and command looked crisp today, an encouraging sign moving forward.
Jake McGee was his usual self in the 7th when he threw a perfect inning, and he even threw a rare breaking ball that got a swing and a miss from Trevor Plouffe. Joel Peralta allowed a pair of men to reach base in the 8th, but got out of the jam with no runs allowed. Then, Grant Balfour came on in the 9th inning, allowing runners to reach first and third with one out. But, he induced a double play ball to keep the Rays in the game. He also stayed on to pitch the 10th and managed a perfect inning. Josh Lueke continued a strong bullpen performance by throwing a scoreless 11th inning, but was not so fortunate in the next frame. Lueke came back out for the 12th inning and gave up the deciding two runs as he continues to struggle this season. The bullpen gave the offense plenty of chances in this one, but ultimately Josh Lueke failed to deliver when the Rays needed him most.
The Rays’ offense got things going in the top of the first after Desmond Jennings singled, stole second, and advanced to third on a Josmil Pinto throwing error. Matt Joyce then grounded out to drive Jennings in for the first run of the game. The Rays added another run in the third inning, when Matt Joyce had another piece of timely hitting and drove in Ryan Hanigan on a sac fly. Desmond Jennings hit another single in the fifth and scored again when Evan Longoria drove him in with a single of his own. The Rays would add yet another in the 6th to tie the game up when a Ben Zobrist sac fly knocked in Wil Myers, but that was the last run they could muster.
Overall, not an awful job by the offense, who managed nine hits and drew five walks while striking out just five times. Desmond Jennings was the best performer on the day, going 3-5 with a walk and a pair of stolen bases. Matt Joyce managed a nice 1-3 performance with a double, but other than Jennings, no Ray would get more than a single hit. The offense could not capitalize on multiple opportunities late in the game, and that would be their demise. The bullpen could only hold out so long, and the offense needed just one more key hit to pull out of this one with a win
The Tampa Bay Rays and Minnesota Twins will play the rubber match tomorrow, an early 1:10 ET game back at Tropicana Field. Erik Bedard is set to take on Ricky Nolasco. As always, check Rays Colored Glasses for all the analysis you need of the game.