The Tampa Bay Rays are putting together some wins, but in order to compete this season they are still going to need a boost. They may have found that boost, as Jeremy Hellickson made his first start of the season in this game after missing time thanks to offseason elbow surgery. Hellickson will be taking the rotation spot of Erik Bedard, who has filled in admirably in the rotation, but who also has been mediocre as of late. The Rays would win in Helly’s return over the Kansas City Royals by a score of 4-3.
In the 1st inning Hellickson’s fastball command- the problem that plagued him for most of last year, when he put up a 5.17 ERA- was iffy. However, he worked around 2 hits to keep the inning scoreless. From the 2nd through 4th his command was much better, and he would give up just 2 hits over that time. But back in the 5th he allowed another 2 hits, once again thanks to iffy fastball command, and he was then lifted from the game with runners on 1st and 3rd with 1 out. Brad Boxberger then allowed an inherited run to score, but it was on a softly hit ground ball. Hellickson’s final line was decent, as he gave up 1 run on 6 hits in 4.1 innings on 84 pitches. He was prepared to throw around 100 pitches tonight, but in his first start back Maddon elected to pull him out of the 5th inning jam rather than have him pitch in the high-leverage situation.
Behind Hellickson, the bullpen was decent. As mentioned, Boxberger allowed an inherited run to score in the 5th, but it was on a slow roller. He would also stay on for the 6th, finishing his outing by firing 1.2 innings and giving up 0 runs on 1 hit while striking out a batter. Grant Balfour came out in the 7th, and he worked around a pair of hits to throw a shutout inning. Joel Peralta started off the 8th inning, but after allowing 2 hits and getting 2 outs he was pulled in favor of lefty Jake McGee to get the key final out. McGee would then come back out for the 9th inning with a 3 run lead, allowing 2 runs, but ultimately earning the 4-out save. The Rays are slowly working McGee into higher-leverage situations after he has put up a great season to this point.
Joe Maddon showed faith in Brandon Guyer by batting him 3rd against the left-handed Jason Vargas, and Guyer rewarded Maddon for that faith. He put up a great 3 for 4 night that included a double and 2 runs scored. Guyer’s .677 OPS is nothing to get too excited about, but games like these provide hope that his bat can turn out to be more as he continues to learn how to hit big league pitching. Also having a nice night was Evan Longoria, who went 2 for 4 with 2 RBIs. Longoria has an underwhelming .736 OPS this season, but since the start of June he has been better, posting a .812 OPS heading into his game. James Loney also had a good performance at the plate going 2 for 4 and padding his team-leading 44 RBIs by driving in a run. The offense as a whole did a decent job, smacking 8 hits and drawing 3 walks en route to 4 runs.