Game 71: Jerry Sands’ Pinch-Hit Homer Leads Rays To Win

By Drew Jenkins

Even when they aren’t winning too much, the Tampa Bay Rays still seem to put together some exciting games. That’s what happened on Monday, as the Rays and Baltimore Orioles were neck-and-neck the entire game. Jerry Sands‘ 8th inning 2-run homer would prove to be the difference, though the Orioles made things interesting before the game ultimately ended with a score of 5-4.

The Rays jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead in the bottom of the 1st thanks to a Yunel Escobar solo home run, his 4th of the year. They would then add two more runs on a Ryan Hanigan homer in the bottom of the 4th. Jake Odorizzi was brilliant through the first five innings, but he experienced a rough 6th, giving up a 2-run home run to Adam Jones before being removed from the game with just 1 out. Odorizzi finished with a still solid final line of 5.1 innings pitched, 2 runs allowed, 5 strikeouts, and 2 walks.

Brad Boxberger would finish out the 6th inning by getting 2 outs and striking out 1. Jake McGee has been getting all the credit for leading the Rays bullpen this season, and rightfully so, but Boxberger has been brilliant as well. Thus far, he has a 2.42 ERA and a 13.3 K/9. Joel Peralta threw a scoreless 7th, but then things got iffy for the Rays bullpen. Grant Balfour came on and allowed 2 base runners while getting just 1 out. Balfour’s struggles continue, and his ERA is now an ugly 6.15. He would be replaced by McGee, who allowed one of the inherited runners to score the tying run, but would not allow a run of his own.

Things were tied up 3-3 heading into the bottom of the 8th, but then the Rays mounted a rally. With Evan Longoria on base, the Rays would pinch-hit David DeJesus for Sean Rodriguez in order to get a righty on lefty matchup. The Orioles responded by bringing in left-hander Brian Matusz, so Joe Maddon countered by re-pinch-hitting, this time with Jerry Sands replacing DeJesus. All the maneuvering paid off, as Sands would hit a go-ahead 2-run home run, his second go-ahead hit in as many nights. Juan Carlos Oviedo came on with a 2 run lead to earn the save, and while he made things interesting by allowing a solo home run to former-Ray Delmon Young, he would get the job done.

All-in-all it was a good win for the Rays. Among the more encouraging offense performances were Desmond Jennings and Logan Forsythe, both of whom had 2-4 days. Both players have experienced their fair share of struggles this season, but maybe this is the night that can get them both going. Longoria, who too has struggled this year, also had a nice day, going 1-2 with a double and a pair of walks. The offense did go a disappointing 1-8 with runners in scoring position, and on the season they have just a .228 batting average and .676 OPS with RISP. That is certainly going to have to change in the future.

The Rays and Orioles will be back in action tomorrow at 7:10 EST. Erik Bedard is the probable pitcher for the Rays in what could be his last start for the team given Jeremy Hellickson‘s impending return. He will be opposed by Miguel Gonzalez.