Almost all year, James Loney has come through with the bat for the Rays. He came through again tonight, as the Rays took over first place by defeating the Yankees 10-6.
The Rays appeared as though they were going to run away with the game early, as they roughed up Yankees starter C.C. Sabathia in the second. With a run already on the board courtesy of Yunel Escobar‘s double and two outs, the Rays offense came to life. Sam Fuld had an RBI single and another run came in on a throwing error as Desmond Jennings bunted for a base hit to put the Rays on top 3-0. Evan Longoria followed with a two run double, and scored on a base hit by Wil Myers, who was caught between first and second to end the inning.
Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson, who had cruised through the first two innings, ran into trouble in the third. With one out, Brent Lillibridge singled, moved to second on a wild pitch, and scored on a base hit by Austin Romine. The Yankees loaded the bases with two outs, but Hellickson managed to avoid further damage by getting newly acquired Alfonso Soriano to fly out.
Hellickson ran into more trouble in the fourth, putting the first two runners aboard and prompting a visit from pitching coach Jim Hickey. Whatever Hickey said to Hellickson was pure gold, as he suddenly locked in, and retired the last eight batters he faced in the game. Hellickson ended up giving up one run on four hits and two walks, striking out three in six innings of mostly solid work.
Tampa seemingly put the game away, as James Loney had an RBI single in the fifth, and then lined a three run homer to right in the seventh to give the Rays a 10-1 lead. However, the Yankees began to mount a comeback. David Adams had an RBI single, and Chris Stewart hit an RBI double to cut the lead to 10-3 in the eighth.
The rally began to truly come to life in the bottom of the ninth, as the Yankees loaded the bases with one out. Consecutive RBI singles by Melky Mesa and Adams trimmed the lead to 10-5, and lef the bases loaded. Soriano had an RBI fielder’s choice, and Fernando Rodney was summoned to close out a game that, four outs previously, he probably never expected to enter. Rodney came though, getting Stewart to ground out to third to end the game. The victory, coupled with a loss by the Red Sox, put the Rays in first place for the first time this season, as they now have a half game lead in the division.
Loney was 2-5 with a home run and four RBIs on the night. Myers had his seventh consecutive multi-hit game, going 2-5 with a run scored and an RBI in the win.