Game 53: Rays Lose Pitcher’s Duel 2-1

By David Hill

Defense has been an issue for the Rays all season, and today it cost them in the standings.

Starters Jeremy Hellickson and Brain Matusz matched each other nearly pitch for pitch in today’s hard fought contest. The Orioles got on the board first in the top of the third inning. With two outs, Endy Chavez homered to right for the first hit of the game, giving the Orioles a 1-0 lead.

The Rays finally got a hit in the bottom of the fifth inning, as Sean Rodriguez led off with a double. He moved to third on a Hideki Matsui groundout to second, and scored on a fielder’s choice by Drew Sutton, beating the throw home. The aggressive baserunning tied the game at 1-1.

The score remained tied at one into the top of the seventh. With one out, Mark Reynolds doubled to left. Following a Wilson Betemit strikeout, Ryan Flaherty reached on catcher’s interference, as Jose Lobaton‘s glove nicked the bat as Flaherty fouled off a pitch. Jake McGee came in to relieve Hellickson, and got Robert Andino to ground to Sutton at third. Unfortunately, Sutton’s throw was wide of first, allowing Reynolds to score. Ben Zobrist cut down Flaherty as he attempted to score, keeping the game at 2-1 Baltimore. Hellickson pitched well over his 6.2 innings of work, allowing only 4 hits and 1 walk while striking out 8 batters.

Tampa threatened in the bottom of the eighth. With one out, Elliot Johnson reached on an error Reynolds. Carlos Pena walked, ending Matusz’s day. Pedro Strop entered the game, and walked B.J. Upton to load the bases. However, Strop was able to get Zobrist to ground into a 4-6-3 double play, ending the threat.

Jim Johnson shut down the Rays in the bottom of the ninth to preserve the 2-1 vicotry for the Orioles. With the win, the Orioles and Rays now find themselves tied for the division lead again with identical 30-23 records.