ST. PETERSBURG, FL - APRIL 25: Outfielder Ben Zobrist #18 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrates his home run against the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim during the game at Tropicana Field on April 25, 2012 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by J. Meric/Getty Images)
The Rays seem to like playing at home. Tonight's win moves them to 7-1 at home this season and have now won 18 of their last 21 regular-season games at the Trop. This series also continues a stretch in which the Rays play 13 of 16 at the Trop; they're 4-1 so far.
He didn't pitch a complete game like his colleague David Price the night before, but Jeremy Hellickson was very solid in his six innings of work, improving his record to 3-0. He gave up one run, the blemish coming in the forth inning courtesy of a Vernon Wells home run. As usual his best pitch was his changeup, which he threw 22 times and generated eight swinging strikes. Of course, that pitch is set up by the excellent command of his fastball. He didn't get any whiffs on it, but had a strike percentage of over 65%. Even his rarely used curveball was on display tonight, prominently featured in the sixth inning strikeout of Albert Pujols.
Speaking of Pujols, the Rays implemented the extreme overshift for him again tonight, and used different variations of it against Tori Hunter and Vernon Wells. They were once again able to contain Pujols, giving up just a walk in his four plate appearances. He's been sufficiently frustrated this series.
C.J. Wilson was impressive as well in the loss, striking out 11 and only allowing two runs in his seven innings. The damage came in the third when Ben Zobrist had a solo blast and Jeff Keppinger's bloop double scored Carlos Pena. It was a one run game until the eighth inning when the Rays were able to give themselves a little breathing room.
After a walk by Evan Longoria, sac bunt by Elliott Johnson and strikeout by B.J. Upton, Luke Scott was intentionally walked to set up the double play. The walk of Scott lead Joe Maddon to pinch hit Matt Joyce for Sean Rodriguez, which worked out as Joyce also walked to load the bases. Instead of allowing right handed Chris Gimenez to face the right handed Isringhausen, newly acquired Brandon Allen was called upon to make his debut. Isringhausen was able to get two strikes with his four-seam fastball but missed with his curveball and cutter, walking Allen and giving the Rays an extra run they'd desperately need after the Angels scored an unearned run in the ninth. Looking at the Pitch f/x data it seems as though Allen was fortunate enough to get a gift ball call on the first pitch of the at bat.
In any case, the Rays won, setting up a possible sweep tomorrow afternoon as Matt Moore squares off against Jerome Williams. Hopefully Moore, who has struggled with his command in the early going, can improve upon his 0.92 K/BB ratio.