Staying Alive: Rays Beat Red Sox 9-2, Move To 3 Back

BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 15: Mike Aviles #3 of the Boston Red Sox kicks the dirt in the ninth inning during a game with Tampa Bay Rays at Fenway Park September 15, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Red Sox lost 9-1. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

Somehow, inexplicably, incredibly, unpredictably, the Rays are still in the hunt. Despite losing two of three against the Orioles earlier this week, the Rays are cranking up the heat when needed and doing just enough to make things really interesting in the Wild Card race. Don't count the Rays out of it until they're mathematically eliminated from the playoffs; otherwise, they'll keep fighting.

Make no mistake: the Rays were good last night, rapping out hits and knocking the Red Sox's starter (Kyle Weiland) out after just three innings. But at the same time, they benefited from some luck in the early innings. With the score tied in the top of the third inning, B.J. Upton came to the plate with runners on first and second with two outs. He hit a weak broken-bat dribbler toward the shortstop hole, but the bat shard went flying out with it and Marco Scuturo missed the ball while trying to avoid the bat. The Rays scored one run on the play, and then got three more runs as Evan Longoria homered in the very next at bat.

Hey, I'll take the Rays jumping out to an early lead no matter how it's done. But wow, that inning could easily have ended with no runs scored.

The Rays also got a tad lucky in the bottom of the third inning, as the Red Sox loaded the bases with one out against Jeremy Hellickson. After jumping out to that early lead, it seemed destinted that they'd hand the lead back already, but Hellboy managed to escape relatively unscathed. Adrian Gonzalez grounded out into a fielders choice, scoring one run, but he got out of the inning after that.

Later in the game, the Rays tacked on more runs off a solo home run from Casey Kotchman -- along with a two-run single from him -- and a two-run B.J. Upton home run.  

As if we didn't need another reminder, this is why losing the series against the Orioles earlier this week hurt so much. These Rays can play serious ball, but for some reason, they're a bipolar team that can thrive one minute and scratch just to get a hit another.

But oh well, at least they won this game. Now just three more to go, and we've got a serious race on our hands.

Game Notes:

  • Joe Maddon has made some questionable moves over the last few days -- Matt Moore's oddly timed debut, Maddon's seeming fear of using the entire expanded roster -- so he drew ire from many people on Twtiter when he frittered away another scoring opportunity by sending three lefties to the plate to face LOOGY Trever Miller. Predictably, the Rays didn't score, but one of those players did have a large contribution later in the game; Kotchman hit his two-run homer, solidifying the Rays' lead at 6-1. Bunting? Pinch hitting? Surely not for the #MagicOfKotch 
  • Russ Canzler made his major league debut in the ninth inning -- finally! -- and he worked a long at bat and drew a walk. It wasn't anything flashy or exciting, but he did show off a good batting eye, and at least Maddon finally got him into a game.
  • Longoria now has 27 home runs in just over 500 plate appearances. His homerun rate this season is nearly identical to his rate when he made his debut in 2008, and it could have been even better if his foot injury earlier in the year hadn't seemingly knocked out his power for a while there.
  • Shields and Beckett face off Friday, so get ready for another epic matchup (knock-on-wood). One game at a time, one game at a time... 
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