31 straight innings without scoring – it takes talent for an offense to be that bad. But on Wednesday in the fourth inning, the Tampa Bay Rays finally began showing the ability that was supposed to ensure that the streak never got that far.
After the top of the fourth inning, the Rays seemed primed for their worst loss yet. Michael Wacha was no-hitting them while Erik Bedard allowed two runs in the third frame and another in the fourth. Brad Boxberger was warming as the Rays came up to bat, preparing to replace Bedard for the fifth. Before that happened, however, the Rays offense left its mark.
There was something strange going on – the Tampa Bay Rays were catching breaks. James Loney‘s soft groundball went into left field for a one-out base hit, as did Ben Zobrist‘s bloop over the head of St. Louis Cardinals shortstop Jhonny Peralta. Then David DeJesus‘ flare was caught and the moment appeared to be over. Luckily, it was not, and their skill only added to the fun. Matt Joyce drilled a two-out RBI single, with a second run scoring on a Peter Bourjos error. Then, after Wacha walked two straight Rays hitters, Desmond Jennings seized the opportunity with a go-ahead two-run single. The Rays got a few weak hits and had the fortune of catching Wacha in his worst game of the year. However, they also got two key two-out hits, and it was those that made this game different than previous contests.
The Rays added two more runs in the seventh inning on an RBI single by Evan Longoria and a James Loney sac fly. But none of it would have mattered of not for the effort of the bullpen. Boxberger followed Bedard and allowed a hit, a walk, and a hit batsman, but he escaped unscathed thanks to two strikeouts and a beautiful catch by Kevin Kiermaier. Juan Carlos Oviedo worked a scoreless sixth before combining with Cesar Ramos and Grant Balfour to get through the seventh. Then Balfour did the rest, retiring the side in order in both the eighth and ninth to finish off 2.1 innings as he earned the save in the Rays’ 6-3 win.
Grant Balfour isn’t suddenly fixed. He allowed some hard contact and needed some luck to have nothing fall for a hit. But for Balfour, it is a great start, and the same can be said for this Rays offense. Maybe this is all meaningless now. Maybe the Rays will still be too far back in the AL East even if this game starts a run. But beating the Cardinals in this contest is something, and we will have to see if it means anything moving forward.