Game 36: Bats Rally, Bullpen Steps Up as Rays Take Opener vs. Jays
By Robbie Knopf
Before the game, the news was bad. The Rays announced that Desmond Jennings would be placed on the DL with the knee injury that he suffered on May 6th. Then the beginning of the game just made things worse. Jeff Niemann started for the Rays, but he was hit on the right ankle by a hard Adam Lind grounder in the first inning and after finishing the inning, he left the game. He was later diagnosed with a small fracture in his fibula, an injury that will sideline him for several months. But in the face of everything, the Rays trudged on.
The Rays bullpen was faced with a tough task, needing to go 8 innings in the game. Cesar Ramos was the first men out of the pen and got into trouble in the 2nd, walking two batters with 2 out in the 9th before allowing a Kelly Johnson RBI single to give the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead in the game. But Ramos gave the Rays some quality relief by tossing the next two innings without allowing a run, and on the day he went 3 innings allowing 1 run on 2 hits, striking out 3 while walking 3.
The Rays couldn’t get anything against Brandon Morrow. Morrow, who struck out 17 Rays in a 2010 one-hitter against the Rays, got off to an excellent start in this game. Through 4 innings, Morrow had a no-hitter going, allowing no hits and 3 walks while striking out 6. But everything quickly changed in the 5th. Will Rhymes led off the inning with the Rays’ first hit, a double down the left field line. After Rhymes advanced to 3rd on a groundball, Elliot Johnson game through with an RBI single to tie the game at 1. Ben Zobrist grounded into a force play at second, but then B.J. Upton walked to give the Rays two runners out with 2 outs. Matt Joyce then hit a hard groundball towards first that squeaked by Adam Lind at first base for an E3, but it also allowed a run to score as Zobrist was hustling all the way, giving the Rays a 2-1 advantage. Morrow then struck out Carlos Pena– but their was a wild pitch on the swing and miss, allowing Pena to reach base as the Rays had the bases loaded with 2 outs. And given another chance, the Rays didn’t miss it. Luke Scott laced a 2-run single before Sean Rodriguez hit a resounding 2-run double to hand the Rays a 6-1 lead. The final five runs were unearned versus Morrow, but they counted on the scoreboard, and that’s all the Rays cared about.
The great bullpen work continued for the Rays. Wade Davis tossed two no-hit innings in the 5th and 6th, striking out 1 and walking 1. J.P. Howell tossed a perfect 7th with a strikeout, and Burke Badenhop did the same in the 8th. And after Ben Zobrist hit a long home run in the top of the 9th to make the day feel a little bit better, Jake McGee allowed a walk and a single to begin the 9th before striking out the side without allowing a run to cross as the Rays won 7-1.
Ramos (1-0) earned the win in the game, the first win of his big league career, while Morrow (4-2) took the loss. The Rays faced adversity both before and during the game, but nothing fazed them. The bullpen was faced with a daunting task but refused to wilt and the offense rebounded from getting no-hit the first 4 innings to explode in the 5th and came away with a great offensive day. It’s frustrating to have Evan Longoria out and now lose Jennings. And now we’ll have to wait tentatively on Niemann. But the Rays have a team that stays composed no matter what obstacles they are faced with and has the ability to continue winning and winning often. The Rays improved to 22-14 on the year, tied for the AL East lead. And they have the ability to stay right up there. The Rays finish up a short two-game set in Toronto with David Price going against Henderson Alvarez on Tuesday night.