When people look at this series, many will allude to the fact that the Rays faced their Boston rivals at their weakest point. This is true, however, the games count the same. Most of us would've been happy with taking two out of three from the Red Sox; we'll gladly accept the three game sweep.
As far as match-ups go, you'd be hard pressed to find stranger pairing than Tim Wakefield and David Price. Wakefield, the 43 year-old right hander, throws a knuckleball that barely reaches the upper-60s in velocity. Price, on the other hand (literally), is a fireballing lefty who is 19 years his junior.
Tonight, the results were just as different.
Wakefield lasted 5.2 innings - allowing six earned runs on four hits and six walks. He also threw two wild pitches while striking out three.
Offensively, the Rays had just five hits, but took advantage of six walks, two errors, two wild pitches, and a passed ball. The night didn't start well as the team stranded Sean Rodriguez at third base and no outs, however, three of the team's five hits came with runners in scoring position - including one off the bat of Carl Crawford on the 12th pitch of his sixth inning at-bat against Dustin Richardson.
One hit that did not come with RISP was a solo home run from Evan Longoria. It was Longo's first home run in 78 at-bats, and it hit off the D-ring of the catwalk, some 442 feet away from home plate. Blasted.
On a night when the Rays needed to rest key members of their bullpen, Price delivered going 7.2 innings - allowing just two runs on eight hits and one walk. He struck out 10 batters while using 111 pitches including 83 for strikes. That's a 75% strike rate! As impressive as all the K's were, he walked just one hitter.
The anti-Wakefield, Price dominated this evening with a mid-to-upper 90s fastball. He threw 100 fastballs on the night with 78 falling for strikes. He induced a ridiculous 19 whiffs on the fastball after entering the game with a 9.1% swing strike rate on the pitch this season.
Continuing the strange match-ups, this game saw Jonathan Papelbon throw a scoreless seventh inning for Boston, while Rays' starter Matt Garza was called on to close the game. With Rafael Soriano and Joaquin Benoit extended in the past few days, Joe Maddon was looking for some bullpen help. After his early exit from Monday's game in which he threw 84 pitches in three innings, Garza was available in relief. With one out in the ninth inning and a runner on first, the bullpen phone rang for Garza.
Matt made it interesting. After getting the second out of the inning, he allowed his inherited runner to score on a double and followed that with a walk of David Ortiz. With our hearts in our stomachs, he got Kevin Youkilis out on a flyball to B.J. Upton to end the game and complete the sweep. Instead of throwing his norm side session between starts, Garza threw 20 pitches en route to his first career save.
Again, despite the names in the lineup, the uniform still said Boston. The Rays entered this series in third place, a half-game behind the Red Sox. They end it in second place with a 2.5 game lead on their rivals.
By any means necessary...