With the Tampa Bay Rays’ post season chances slipping away almost hourly, the recently dominant Drew Smyly (3-1, 1.50 ERA) faced Boston Red Sox starter Rubby De La Rosa (4-5, 3.81 ERA) on Monday to try to split the four game holiday weekend series with 25 games left in the regular season. In a classic battle featuring mostly solid Rays pitching, just enough stingy offense, and key hits by Ryan Hanigan and Matt Joyce, the Rays proved themselves the better team in a 4-3 win over Boston in the 10 inning contest.
As anticipated, Drew Smyly provided a decent start. Entering the game with a 3-0 record with an 0.88 ERA in his last four starts, Smyly was dominant in his first two innings, retiring the Red Sox in order with three strike outs and a notable six first pitch strikes. He mixed his pitches well while alternating his usual 88 to 91 mph fastball with the 84 to 88 mph change-up and an occasional slider. In the third inning, he gave up a two out walk to Christian Vazquez and then a center field double to Mookie Betts, which scored the first Boston run. Smyly’s only other mistake was a one out solo home run smacked by DH Mike Napoli. With the score 3 – 2 Rays, he left the game after five and two thirds innings while giving up 2 runs and striking out 7 on a total of 96 pitches, 60 of them strikes.
After his departure in the sixth with two outs, Brad Boxberger ended the inning by striking out Mike Napoli. “Box” was also solid in the seventh, retiring the side with two strike outs, giving him three for the day and a total of 92 strike outs for the season. That tied a record for the most strike outs by a Rays reliever in a single season and gave him a strong case that he will set a new record later this week.
The game appeared to be in Rays control until the eighth, when Jeff Beliveau entered the game and gave up a one out single up the middle to Betts and later allowed him to move up to second. Joe Maddon chose to insert September call-up Steve Geltz. Having not pitched in the majors since 2012, Geltz then gave up a single to Yoenis Cespedes which drove in Betts to score the tying run. The tie was preserved in the ninth inning when Jake McGee used his 96 mph fastball to befuddle Red Sox hitters and retire the side in order.
When Grant Balfour entered the game to start the top of the tenth, most of what was left of the 10,543 in attendance was in silent wonderment of what would happen next. Balfour came through with a scoreless inning, using a pick off of Jemile Weeks to help him do so. Then, the stage was set for a great bottom of the tenth.
The Rays offense was basically non-existent until the third inning. After singles from Hanigan and Ben Zobrist, Wil Myers smacked an RBI double. Myers had a nice day, going 3 for 4 with a walk. Evan Longoria then followed with a single up the middle to drive in two runs and make the score 3-1 Rays. After that we have to jump to the bottom of the tenth for the next Rays’ scoring. Facing Boston pitcher Burke Badenhop in his second inning of relief, Hanigan completed his 2 for 4 day with a double to left field that was challenged by Red Sox manager John Farrell but upheld in review. Kevin Kiermaier was then walked, and Zobrist followed with a sac bunt before Wil Myers was also walked. Joyce then pulled through in the clutch, smacking a walk-off single.