Game 1 was a big win for the Rays, but it looked like it would be just another flicker of promise that quickly went away. 2014 has been a Rays season exemplified by disastrous innings that turn winnable games into demoralizing loses, and that happened once again on Thursday night. This time, however, the Rays found a way to come back.
The Rays took an early lead in the second inning when Sean Rodriguez drilled a one-out double and scored on James Loney‘s RBI single. Then Desmond Jennings made it 2-0 on a homer over the Green Monster, and it looked like that might be enough. Through 4 innings, Chris Archer had thrown just 53 pitches as he allowed just 1 hit and 2 walks while striking out 3. The Rays’ starting pitching had been knocked out of games after 5 or less innings, but Archer looked like the pitcher he was going to break the trend and toss 7 strong innings to beat the Boston Red Sox. Instead, everything came apart.
Archer walked Xander Bogaerts to begin the inning and Will Middlebrooks two batters later, but the Rays still had faith in him. He had been dominant all game and simply lost the zone for a little while. He walked Jackie Bradley Jr., but he forced Dustin Pedroia to fly out and was one batter away from getting out of the inning. But Archer’s collapse continued, and it cost the Rays dearly. Archer hit Shane Victorino with a pitch to force in one run, and singles by David Ortiz and Mike Napoli scored three more. Joe Maddon took Archer out, but Grady Sizemore‘s RBI single off Brad Boxberger made it a 5-2 game. The Rays had come apart again–but not for long.
In the following inning, the Rays made sure that the Red Sox’ rally did not go unanswered as Sean Rodriguez drilled a 2-run home run to pull within 5-4. Rodriguez was not done. After Boxberger struck out the side in the scoreless 6th and Juan Carlos Oviedo helped him escape the 7th, Rodriguez was allowed to hit with two outs and nobody on against right-hander Junichi Tazawa. Rodriguez said after the game on Sun Sports that the Rays were going to pinch-hit for him with Ben Zobrist if anyone got on. Instead, Rodriguez came to the plate and made the Red Sox pay, drilling a double off the Green Monster. Loney followed with a clutch single and suddenly the Rays had tied the game at 5. Despite ranking just 12th on the team in plate appearances, Rodriguez leads the team with 4 homers and 7 of his 8 hits have no gone for extra bases. His start confuses everyone, but what matters is that Rodriguez has come up with several big hits for a Rays team that could not need them any more right now.
In the eighth inning, it was deja vu from the first game as Jake McGee faced a runner on third with one out after a Xander Bogaerts double and a sac bunt. This time, though, he didn’t need much help from his defense as he struck out Middlebrooks and, after a walk to Jonny Gomes, forced Dustin Pedroia to ground out to end the frame. The Red Sox brought in unhittable closer Koji Uehara for a tie game in the top of the ninth, but there was a major difference facing him in a tie game instead of a deficit. Sure enough, Uehara left a splitter up in the zone and Yunel Escobar drilled it for a go-ahead home run. Grant Balfour worked around another runner on third in the bottom of the frame as the Rays came back to win 6-5.
The bad inning happened again, but with the Sean Rodriguez leading a resurgent offense and more great bullpen work, the Rays found a way to survive. They head to their series at Yankee Stadium finally confident after the beating the Red Sox to win both the doubleheader and the series. David Price takes on Vidal Nuno at 7:05 PM as the Rays hope to find sustainable success for the first time in far too long.