Winning games has not been an easy task for the Tampa Bay Rays in recent days. Injuries have dismantled the rotation and, in turn, overworked the bullpen. On the offensive side, meanwhile, the Rays have had their moments but consistency has not fallen into place. Thursday’s first game featured more of the same as a little bit of everything went wrong. This time, however, the Rays battled through every situation and refused to succumb to yet another loss.
Cesar Ramos started for the Rays after two great outings and did not have nearly the first inning he had in mind. He allowed walks to Dustin Pedroia and Mike Napoli to bookend two strikeouts, and then a Jonny Gomes single gave the Boston Red Sox a 1-0 lead. A third walk to Xander Bogaerts brought Ramos to 30 pitches in the inning and to the brink of collapse. However, he forced Will Middlebrooks to fly out softly to end the inning and got into a roll from there. Ramos needed only 40 pitches to toss the following three innings as he allowed just a Napoli walk while striking out four. Then Ramos retired Jackie Bradley Jr. and Pedroia to begin the fifth inning, getting the former out on his incredible behind-the-back grab. But then Ramos unraveled again, allowing walks to Shane Victorino and David Ortiz to end his outing. His 3-2 slider to Ortiz just missed, and Joe Maddon had to take him out. Ramos threw a career-high 95 pitches as he allowed 1 run on 1 hit in 4.2 innings, striking out 6 and walking 6 as well. Brandon Gomes got Napoli to pop out to strand Ramos’ last two runners.
The Rays tied the game in the third inning on a David DeJesus solo home run and DeJesus came up big again in the following frame. Desmond Jennings began the inning with a double, but it looked like the Rays were going to strand him as Jake Peavy retired the next two batters. With a base open, Peavy pitched around James Loney, walking him on four pitches to bring up Wil Myers. Myers fell behind 0-2, but he laid off four straight secondary pitches out of the zone to draw another walk. Then Peavy got ahead 1-2 on DeJesus and was poised to finally escape the inning. However, DeJesus fouled off a couple of tough pitches before taking a fastball up for ball four to force in a run and give the Rays a 2-1 lead. Peavy was not wild in the inning even as he walked three batters, but he was trying to make the Rays get themselves out and they were not going to fall for his tricks.
The Rays had a 2-1 lead, but it was going to be up to their bullpen to hold on, something that has been far from a sure thing in recent games. Brandon Gomes got out of Ramos’ jam in the fifth and managed to work around two hits the following inning. Then Jake McGee came on for the seventh, and the Red Sox gave the Rays their best shot. McGee got too cute with an 0-2 breaking ball to Dustin Pedroia, and Pedroia lined it for a leadoff single.Then, after Shane Victorino struck out, David Ortiz took an errant fastball off the Green Monster in left field and Pedroia rounded the bases trying to score. But Matt Joyce had a barehanded pickup and delivered a strong relay to Yunel Escobar, who delivered a bullet to Jose Molina to get Pedroia at home and keep the Rays ahead. The Red Sox challenged, but replays were inconclusive and the call stood. In any event, the relay was the story, not the replay. Joyce has been chided for his defense for a long time, but he made another great play to save this game for the Rays.
The Rays offense got nothing beyond those first two runs, but Joel Peralta worked around a walk in the eighth and Grant Balfour got by a hit in the ninth as the Rays hung on to win 2-1. They managed just 4 hits in the game and went 0 for 6 with runners in scoring position, but Ramos rebounded in a huge way after the rough first inning and the bullpen combined for 5.1 shutout frames to seal the win. It feels good to see the Rays finally get back on track, and they can make an even bigger statement in the second game of this doubleheader as Chris Archer takes on Felix Doubront at 7:05 PM.