Rays Game 157: Ben Zobrist Leads Rally vs. Clay Buchholz


Through seven innings of Tuesday’s game, Clay Buchholz‘s dominance against the Tampa Bay Rays had reached unfathomable levels. He had tossed 29 consecutive regular-season innings against the team without allowing a single earned run, and he used just 73 pitches to get through the first seven frames of the game. The Boston Red Sox right-hander had used just 98 pitches to shut out the Rays on August 31st, and he seemed primed to match that result. But between all those shutout innings by Buchholz was one huge hit: Evan Longoria‘s game-tying three-run homer in ALDS Game 3 last season. Despite how much Rays hitters had struggled against Buchholz, there was still that flicker of hope that they could come together again. The stakes were exponentially lower than they were that game as the Rays and Red Sox battled as the bottom two teams in the AL East, but the results were similar as the Rays found a way to deliver a remarkable win.

Alex Cobb did not deserve to take the loss. In seven innings of work, he had allowed just a lone run on a Daniel Nava RBI double to keep the Rays down 1-0. He was far from as overpowering as he allowed 5 hits and 2 walks while striking out just 3, but he forced 9 groundouts, three of which turned into double plays. The third of those twin killings ended his outing as he worked around a Nava hit-by-pitch and a Garin Cecchini single by starting a 1-4-3 double play. We weren’t thinking much about it because it seemed so unlikely, but the Rays had a chance to give him his 10th win of the season if they could rally against Buchholz. Then the inning began and things began to fall their way.

When we think of a pitcher’s worst pitches in game, what usually comes to mind are the offerings where he gives up hard contact. For Clay Buchholz, however, his worst pitch of his outing to that point may have been his 3-2 pitch to Nick Franklin. Buchholz had fallen behind Franklin 3-1, but he had gotten him to foul off a fastball and everyone expected a dynamic 3-2 pitch. Instead, Buchholz threw a fastball that was low and never looked like a strike, and Franklin took it for ball four. Buchholz rebounded to strike out Matt Joyce, but then he hit Brandon Guyer with a pitch and suddenly the Rays had something going. Even after Ryan Hanigan popped out, the Rays still were in as good of a situation as they could have possibly hoped for. The batter at the plate was Ben Zobrist, who already had two hits off Buchholz in the game and had the best chance of anyone at a clutch two-out hit.

On a 1-1 pitch, Zobrist hit a flyball towards the Green Monster in left field, and Rays fans hoped against hope that it would drop. With the help of Yoenis Cespedes, it did. Cespedes went back lackadaisically for the ball, and a last-second leap proved futile and the ball got by him for a two-run double. It was not Ben Zobrist’s flashiest go-ahead hit, but it counted just as much. The floodgates opened from there as David DeJesus delivered an RBI single and James Loney drilled a two-run base hit later in the frame. The Rays’ comeback may have been equal parts luck and skill, but as a team enduring the last week of a disastrous season, it was nice for them to get something to help soften the blow.

Brad Boxberger did allow a run in the eighth inning and needed Grant Balfour to clean up the mess, but Matt Joyce drilled a solo homer in the top of the ninth and Joel Peralta tossed a scoreless bottom of the frame as the Rays won 6-2. Also worth noting from the game were that Yunel Escobar exited in the third inning with a knee injury, which could end his season a few days early, and Wil Myers made a pair of nice catches in right field.

Jake Odorizzi will go against Anthony Ranaudo at 7:10 PM on Wednesday as the Rays hope to win out and finish the season at .500.