Game 42: Huge Rally Versus Jim Johnson in 9th Leads Rays to Victory

By Robbie Knopf

It didn’t remotely resemble Rays baseball. Their starting pitcher gave them yet another bad outing and it was their offense that got them back into the game only to watch the bullpen let the Orioles pull away again. But in the blink of an eye, order was restored. The pitching stepped up and kept the Orioles at bay. And in the 9th, the Rays picked the perfect time for some magic on their way to a 10-6 win versus the Orioles.

The Rays entered the 9th down 6-4 with Orioles closer Jim Johnson taking the hill going for his 15th save of the season. The sinkerballing Johnson began the 9th per usual, forcing Luke Scott to ground out. But then, however, Johnson got behind Kelly Johnson 3-1 and left a sinker up in the zone, and Johnson didn’t miss it, eliminating the Orioles’ margin for error with a solo home run to make it 6-5 Baltimore. That was only the start of Johnson’s struggles. Johnson walked Jose Lobaton and Yunel Escobar to put the tying run in scoring position and the go-ahead run on base. And after Desmond Jennings singled, Matthew Joyce ended Johnson’s night and ignited the Orioles’ frustration, drilling a go-ahead 2-run double. Ben Zobrist would slam a 2-run double off of Darren O’Day and Scott would draw a bases-loaded walk as the Rays surged for 6 runs in the inning, turning a 6-4 deficit into a 10-6 lead on their way to victory.

Roberto Hernandez was terrible for the Rays in this one, going just 2+ innings allowing 5 runs on 8 hits. Cesar Ramos relieved him in the 3rd and allowed a J.J. Hardy RBI double to plate Hernandez’s final run before letting up another run in the 4th. The Rays simply weren’t getting any pitching at all and on a pitching-dependent team, it seemed sure to cost them. But nobody told that to Matt Joyce. Joyce drilled a 2-run home run in the 3rd as the Rays closed to within 4-3 for a moment and a Joyce RBI double made it 6-4 Orioles in the 5th. The rest of Joyce’s heroics would have to wait until the 9th, and Alex Torres did his part to make sure they would not go for nought. Torres went 4 innings of relief allowing no runs on not a single hit, striking out 3 while walking 2. It could have been prettier but the results could not have been better and for his efforts, Torres got the win in the game when the Rays rallied–and a ticket back to Triple-A after the game. Such is the life of a rookie reliever on a team in a pennant chase, but don’t worry, he’ll be back.

Chaotic game for the Rays in this one, but the superhuman efforts of Joyce and Torres made it all work out in the end. This isn’t the Rays team we’re used to, but between an offense playing as well as it has in a very long time and players stepping up to solidify the pitching staff, it is all working out and the Rays have to hope that these past two wins versus the Orioles can be the start of something. Matt Moore goes for his 8th win against the Orioles’ Chris Tillman at 1:35 on Sunday as the Rays go for the sweep.