The streak lives on for the Tampa Bay Rays, as they have won nine games in a row, and have clinched their fourth consecutive series victory. In Jeremy Hellickson‘s return to the club after a pair of minor league outings, the Rays defeated the Boston Red Sox 3-0.
The Rays scored a run every three innings, starting in the first inning as Desmond Jennings scored after leading off the game on a three-base error, and was hit home on a single from Matt Joyce. Kevin Kiermaier drove home the second run in the bottom of the fourth, also on a single, this time driving home Yunel Escobar. Then, the final run of the game was scored in the seventh when Ben Zobrist hit a ball all the way to Tallahassee…well, not really, but it was an absolute blast just left of the right field foul pole to give the Rays a big insurance run and make it a 3-0 game.
In his return to the big league club, Hellickson labored through 4.2 innings of work, throwing 96 pitches before being taken out. He was effective though, allowing seven base runners (five of which reached via a hit) while striking out five. Getting the win was the struggling Grant Balfour, who recorded his first of the year by going 1.2 innings of one hit ball, and found himself entering the game in a dangerous situation, with runners on the corners and the go-ahead run at the plate. It may be a long road, but outings like this from Grant Balfour are the only way he can regain his confidence on the mound.
For the Red Sox, starter John Lackey went seven innings and allowed three runs, but for a long time, it looked like he was building momentum. Lackey decreased his pitch count in each inning, from 28 in the first inning gradually down to 8 in the sixth, and seemed primed to both save the Boston bullpen and keep his team down just two runs. In the seventh inning, however, the Rays made him labor through 20 pitches and scored on that Zobrist blast to ice the game even more. In his seven innings of work, Lackey allowed three runs, two earned, on eight hits, striking out four and walking four as well.
On the game, three Rays recorded multiple hits–Joyce, Escobar, and Kiermaier–while six of the starting nine recorded at least one. One game after his big go-ahead three-run double, Evan Longoria had a solid game, going 1 for 3 with a walk. He just missed a home run when he drilled a Lackey fastball on the inner part of the plate just barely to the left of the left field foul pole. Even without the blast counting, though, it was further progress for the Rays slugger, and the Rays have to hope that will continue.
With the win, the Rays are now just two games under .500, and will look to go for the sweep tomorrow as Chris Archer will take his 6-5 record and 3.31 ERA up against Allen Webster, who will make his first appearance of the season for the Red Sox. First pitch is set for the usual Sunday matinee time of 1:40 PM.