Game 98: Desmond Jennings Ignites Rays Offense in 4-3 Victory

By David Hill

The leadoff hitter has one primary job in the batting order – to get on base. Desmond Jennings did just that for the Rays, helping to spark Tampa to a 4-3 victory over the Blue Jays.

Jennings helped the Rays jump out in the first, drawing a leadoff walk and moving to second on a bunt single. After taking third on a fly ball to right, Wil Myers hit a sacrifice fly to plate Jennings and put the Rays on the board. Tampa continued to add to the lead in the third, as they loaded the bases with no outs against Toronto starter Mark Buehrle. A run scored on a fielder’s choice, and Myers followed with an RBI single to left. A second fielder’s plated another run, and the Rays took a 4-0 lead into the bottom of the third.

Toronto began their comeback in the bottom of the inning. Jose Bautista belted a homer to left, and Edwin Encarnacion followed with a double to deep right. After a walk and a stolen base, Jeremy Hellickson seemed as though he may be in trouble. However, he escaped by striking out Colby Rasmus to end the threat.

Hellickson helped the Jays out in the fifth. After Jose Reyes walked, Hellickson balked him into scoring position, then uncorked a wild pitch to move Reyes to third. Encarnacion grounded out to plate the runner, and the Jays pulled within two. Hellickson would be done after the fifth, giving up two runs on five hits and three walks over five innings. He struck out three, but threw 91 pitches to get through five.

Buelrhe had settled in, keeping the Rays off the board after the rough third inning, as the Rays turned to their bullpen. Toronto had a prime scoring opportunity in the eighth, loading the bases with no outs. However, Joel Peralta continued to show why he may be the most important reliever for the Rays, as he got a pop foul for an out, and struck out the next two batters to preserve the lead.

The Blue Jays continued to make it interesting in the bottom of the ninth. Fernando Rodney came on for the save, and Toronto put runners on first and third with two outs. Encarnacion grounded to the mound on what appeared to be the game ending play, but Rodney was unable to field it cleanly as a run scored. A double steal put runners at second and third, and Adam Lind was a base hit away from sending the Rays to defeat. Bowever, Rodney came through, getting Lind to fly out to center to end the game as the Rays held on for the 4-3 victory.

Jennings was an on base machine, going 3-4 with a walk and two runs scored. Myers continued his hot streak, going 2-4 with two RBIs in the win.