Tampa Bay Rays’ manager Joe Maddon stressed the importance of avoiding the series sweep at the hands of the Oakland Athletics, and the Rays apparently took the message to heart. Behind a great start from Jeremy Hellickson and a nice day by the offense, the Rays would take game three from the A’s by a score of 7-3. With the win, the Rays move to 55-59 on the season.
Jeremy Hellickson began his start by retiring the first 9 hitters he faced, and he stayed in similar form throughout the entire outing. Hellickson would last 7.0 innings, surrendering just 2 hits and 1 run while striking out 3. The only mistake Hellickson made was a fastball that caught a little too much of the plate and resulted in an Eric Sogard home run just inside the right field foul pole. He wasn’t relying on overpowering stuff, rather using a change of speed to keep A’s hitters off balance. Hellickson’s changeup was sharp on the day, but his curveball, and especially his command of it, was much better than we have seen all year. Heading into this game there was much talk of Hellickson regaining the confidence of Maddon, and he certainly did his best to do just that.
Joel Peralta came on in relief of Hellickson, throwing a perfect 8th inning. After some early seasons inconsistency, many wondered how much the 38-year old Peralta had left in the tank. But since May 28th Peralta has been phenomenal, putting up a 2.12 ERA and a 29-6 K-BB ratio in 21.2 innings. The Rays asked Grant Balfour to finish off the game, but before he could do so he allowed a pair of runs on 2 hits and a walk.
The Rays entered this game having gone just 1 for 16 with runners in scoring position in the first two games of the series. Thus, they tried to use small ball early to manufacture a run or two, and it worked out in the 2nd inning. After Yunel Escobar singled, Cole Figueroa followed up with a single that was the product of a hit and run. Jose Molina then bunted them over, and Escobar would score on a Kevin Kiermaier groundout. But after that, there was no need to use small ball. Kiermaier smacked a 2-run homer as part of a 3-run 4th, and the Rays would add 3 more in the 6th thanks to RBI singles from Desmond Jennings and Ben Zobrist.
Zobrist entered the game hitting .330/.409/.477 since the beginning of June, and he added to that by going 3 for 4 with 2 doubles, a walk, an RBI, and a run scored in this contest. After taking a bit of criticism for supposedly not hustling in Tuesday’s game, Zobrist responded by stretching a single into a hustle double in the 4th inning. Also with a nice day was Escobar, who went 2 for 5 with a pair of runs scored. James Loney and Molina also added 2-hit performances of their own. Despite 7 runs scored, the Rays were still actually underwhelming with runners in scoring position, going 3 for 14. But in the end, they still did more than enough to get the job done.