Game 86: Improbable Rally in 9th Ends Rays’ First Half On a Promising Note


It was not looking good at all. The first four innings were an utter disaster. Zach McAllister got the start for Cleveland was absolutely dominant, striking out 7 in the first four frames and allowing just a first inning walk. The Rays were getting no-hit, and you had the feeling that it was just that type of night. James Shields wasn’t nearly at his best on the other side, allowing 4 runs on 7 hits including a Casey Kotchman homer and a Johnny Damon triple. Jeff Keppinger singled with 1 out in the 5th to break up the no-hitter, but Kotchman singled in a run in the bottom of the inning and the Rays were down 5-0. The Rays were getting killed. They looked like a terrible team. You had to wonder why people had such high expectations for them. But suddenly everything changed.

The Rays have been ridiculed for their defense all season. Their turnaround in this game began when they got a copule breaks of their own. With 1 out in the 6th, Carlos Pena hit a perfectly placed groundball that he beat out for an infield single. Then Ben Zobrist hit a groundball to second base for what looked like a surefire inning-ending double play, but shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera missed the catch, and everyone was safe, giving the Rays continued life. Two batters later, Luke Scott hit a flyball to right-center just off the glove of centerfielder Michael Brantley to score 2 runs, and two more batters later, Desmond Jennings drilled a 2-run double and suddenly the Rays were within 5-4. McAllister wound up going 5.2 innings allowing 4 runs, none earned, on 4 hits, striking out 8 while walking 3. He threw just 89 pitches, 56 strikes, in what was an effortless outing and could have continued to do if his defense had stayed sharp.

Shields did not pitch well, but in vintage Shields fashion, he stayed tough and kept the Rays in the game, going 7 innings allowed 5 runs, 4 earned, on 10 hits, striking out 5 while walking 2. Joel Peralta relieved him for the 8th, but allowed a Shin-Soo Choo homer and the Rays trailed 6-4 heading to the top of the 9th inning. Shields battled, the offense came alive, yet the Rays were about to suffer a debilitating loss to end the first half. Indians closer Chris Perez came in to close out the game.

Jose Lobaton struck out looking to begin the inning and the Rays had just 2 outs remaining. But Perez then left a fastball up and middle-in to Will Rhymes, and Rhymes picked a perfect time for his first homer of the season, a laser into the right field seats to pull the Rays within 6-5. Elliot Johnson then singled up the middle to put the tying run on base with Carlos Pena coming to the plate. And Pena did something he seems to never do, serving a slider that stayed up and away towards left-centerfield. The centerfielder Brantley, who was shifted towards right-center, sprinted towards the ball and made a dive, but he just missed, scoring Johnson as Pena slid into third base with a triple, also his first of the season. And Ben Zobrist capped the comeback with a bullet single to right field to give the Rays a 7-6 lead. Fernando Rodney nailed down his 25th save in the 9th inning, working around 2 hits, as the Rays won in dramatic fashion 7-6. It was an unlikely chain of events, but somehow everything came together at the same time and the Rays came away with an improbable win and one with the potential to turn their season around. One win means next to nothing. But the Rays go into the All-Star Break with a good taste in their mouths for once and showed the baseball world that even though nothing is clicking, even though the pitching and the offense and the defense haven’t been consistent, they are going to give everything they can to fight through.