Unlike the last extra inning affair these two teams played at the Trop -- the 16 inning 1-0 Sox victory -- the Rays came out on top this time.
It seemed like two separate games, one with the starters and one with the relievers. The starting pitchers were pulled hours before the game actually ended. The Rays used seven relievers to complete the final five innings. Let's start from the top.
Jeremy Hellickson didn't have the type of success he did in his last start, but you're not likely to throw complete games when you face the Red Sox. He lasted six innings and gave up three runs -- two on the home run by Gonzalez. He didn't generate as many whiffs (5 out of 102 pitches) as you normally need to keep the Red Sox hitters at bay. Of the 102 pitches 40 were changeups and 50 were fastballs. It's never good when those two numbers are close to even. The Red Sox kept spoiling his fastballs, especially in two strike counts, and were not fooled at all by the change. They're one of the best offenses in baseball for a reason.
After Hellickson came out the real fun began. The parade of relievers were extremely impressive, outside of Farnsworth that is. Everyone not named Farnsworth combined for a line of 4.2 IP, 1H, 0 ER, 0 BB. Brandon Gomes and Cesar Ramos were the most impressive, each going 1.1 innings and preventing the Rays from having to use Andy Sonnanstine. As for Farnsworth, something looks to be wrong as the Rays now say he's day to day with an elbow injury. Over his last six appearances he's allowed 11 hits and four earned runs in 5.1 innings. He had allowed three home runs all season before the two he gave up in the ninth. In the eight games prior he hadn't allowed a base runner, let alone a run. If the Rays are to have any shot at the Wild Card (not that I think they have one) they need him to be healthy. Sadly, that doesn't seem to be the case.
On the offensive side of things it wasn't pretty but the Rays managed to get the job done. They had numerous opportunities to break the game open, including loading the bases twice and coming away with just two runs total. They were lead by the top three in the order; Jennings, Upton and Longoria. The trio combined to go 6-13 with four walks, a double, triple, and three RBI. Obviously the 11th inning is where they shined brightest as Jennings lead off with a triple and Longoria knocked him in to win the game a batter later. Some love will be thrown Casey Kotchman's way as well. He had two RBI, and hit a home run that gave the Rays the lead again just a half inning after Gonzalez's two run blast.
James Shields goes tomorrow against Red Sox ace Jon Lester. He has a complete game shutout and a very nice eight inning performance to his credit against the Red Sox this season. Another victory would move the Rays to within 3.5 games of the Sox, and make everyone in the greater Tampa Bay area nervous as hell over the final two weeks.