BOSTON, MA - SEPTEMBER 18: Joel Peralta #62 of the Tampa Bay Rays is congratulated by catcher Kelly Shoppach #10 after getting the final out against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on September 18, 2011 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Rays won the game 8-5. (Photo by Darren McCollester/Getty Images)
Phase one of "Get the Rays to the playoffs" was a success. The Rays played the Red Sox seven times the past two weekends and came away with a 6-1 record, helping to cut their wild card deficit to two games. Now they just need the help of the Baltimore Orioles to complete phase two.
David Price took the mound for the Rays but would last only four innings after taking a Mike Aviles line drive to the chest. He would come out and pitch one more inning, allowing a two run double to Darnell McDonald, before being lifted as a precautionary measure. He was taken to the hospital after the game but all tests came back negative and Maddon expects him to make his next start. With a four run lead the Rays would use five relievers to cover the next five innings, non more impressive than Jake McGee. The rookie worked 2.2 innings, allowing one hit and one run while striking out two. LIke Matt Moore the night before, McGee was extremely impressive in helping the patchwork bullpen finish the game off. It was the most McGee had pitched in one outing, minors or majors, this season. He's had a bumpy rookie campaign but with Farnsworth sidelined/possibly ineffective upon return the Rays may have to lean on McGee more in key situations. Hopefully this game shows he can handle it.
Cesar Ramos, Brandon Gomes, J.P. Howell and Joel Peralta were used to cobble together the final seven outs. Peralta picked up the save for the second day in a row and over his last 15 appearances has allowed just one earned run while striking out 18.
The offense had a good day, but that's been the norm against Tim Wakefield this season. Six different players scored a run and every starter besides Upton and Shoppach reached base. Matt Joyce had the biggest day going 3-4 with a double and three RBI. They were helped numerous times by passed balls and wild pitches. In the second inning Casey Kotchman struck out but reached first on a passed ball, then advanced to second base on a wild pitch, and ended up scoring on a Johnny Damon double. Matt Joyce doubled in the 4th and moved to third on a passed ball and later scored on a Sean Rodriguez sac fly. In the fifth inning Desmond Jennings manufactured a run all on his own, singling, stealing second, advancing to third on a wild pitch and scoring on a passed ball. Today could very well be the last time the Rays ever face Wakefield. For that, I'm sad.
Despite being just two games back the Rays still face some long odds. They have seven left against the Yankees and three against the Blue Jays. That's not easy. Even if they don't make it they've given us something exciting to watch as the season comes to a close. That's all we can really ask for coming into a season.