The Tampa Bay Rays finished things without a walk-off this time around, as big fourth and seventh innings propelled Joe Maddon and company to an 8-5 victory to complete the sweep of the Boston Red Sox. Not only was it a big win, but it was symbolic as it was Maddon’s 700th win as the Rays’ skipper. Huge kudos to him.
The Red Sox, again, got on the board early against Jake Odorizzi when Brock Holt flew out to right field, which brought home A.J. Pierzynski. But, the lead would be short-lived. In the fourth, Evan Longoria lead off the Rays’ half of the inning with a home run to tie the game. The Rays then took the lead for the first time when Logan Forsythe drove home Wil Myers.
It was 3-1 until the top of the seventh inning, the first inning without Odorizzi on the mound, when Jonny Gomes went yard off of Joel Peralta, also scoring Pierzynski to tie the game at three. But, again, the Sox wouldn’t be close for long. In the bottom half of the same frame, Sean Rodriguez came to the plate to pinch-hit for Matt Joyce with Desmond Jennings and Longoria on base, and blasted an 0-1 changeup into the left field seats to give the Rays a 6-3 lead. Four batters later, Yunel Escobar doubled home James Loney and Brandon Guyer to give the Rays an 8-3 lead. Then things got interesting.
Following Escobar’s double, the Red Sox made a pitching change from Craig Breslow and brought on Edward Mujica. Just one pitch into Mujica’s appearance, Escobar swiped third base on defensive indifference, which caused several Red Sox, most notably David Ross, to bark at Escobar from the dugout. Escobar took offense to the yelling, and walked off the base over towards the Boston dugout, which caused Gomes to rush to Ross’ defense from left field, give Escobar a shove in the face, and clear both benches. When all was said and done, Gomes (for the shove), Escobar (for initiating the shove) and Rodriguez (not sure why, honestly) were all ejected from the ballgame. While some of it was sparked by Escobar/Ross, and yes, the Rays and Red Sox aren’t necessarily best friends, the Red Sox have now lost 10 straight games, and frustrations are at a boiling point. It was frustration more than anything on Boston’s part than any malicious intent, and the low number of ejections show that.
Josh Lueke came on in the ninth to shut the door, and allowed Pierzynski (who reached on a lead off double) and Holt (who knocked a two out hit) to score off a Xander Bogaerts single, which ended Lueke’s day and brought Grant Balfour to the bump, who got Dustin Pedroia to ground out and end the game. Lueke keeps struggling and even though he still has potential, you wonder how many more chances he is going to get.
Odorizzi had a nice outing, allowing four hits and striking out five through six innings of work to go along with his only run allowed. On the other side, Red Sox starter Brandon Workman had a good outing as well, only going five innings but allowing three runs on five hits and striking out and walking three a piece. Then it came down to the bullpens, and the Rays were able to outduel the Sox.
The Rays are heading north of the border to take on AL East leading Toronto Blue Jays. The series will start tomorrow with Erik Bedard opposing Drew Hutchison in a Memorial Day evening matchup. The Blue Jays swept the Oakland A’s this past weekend, winning yesterday 3-1, and are on a six game winning streak. We will see which hot team prevails in possibly the Rays most important series so far this season.