TORONTO, CANADA - MAY 14: Luke Scott #30 and B.J. Upton #2 of the Tampa Bay Rays celebrate the team's win over the Toronto Blue Jays during MLB game action May 14, 2012 at Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Brad White/Getty Images)
The good news is the Rays won the game, pushing them back into first place. The bad news is the disabled list has a new member. Let's start with the good news first.
After being held hitless by Brandon Morrow for the first four innings the Rays' bats came to life in the fifth. Will Rhymes lead it off with a double and was brought home by an Elliott Johnson single two batters later. After a fielder's choice and a walk to B.J. Upton, Matt Joyce hit a sharp grounder to first basemen Adam Lind who couldn't field it cleanly, allowing Joyce to narrowly beat Kelly Johnson's throw to first. Joyce was safe despite sliding head first into the bag, which is among the dumbest things a player can do unless he's trying to avoid a tag as it slows you down. After Carlos Pena reached on a wild pitch strike out Luke Scott and Sean Rodriguez added back to back two RBI hits to give the Rays a five run cushion. Ben Zobrist would add a solo home run in the ninth, making the final score seven to one.
Contributing one hit and reaching base three times tonight, Johnson has been on some type of hot streak. Not known for a great bat, Johnson was hitting .138/.265/.172 on May 4th. Coming into tonight's game he had improved that line to .264/.339/.415. He's now reached base 13 times in his past seven games. It's not something he's likely to maintain, but with Evan Longoria still out it's been a nice added bonus.
The bad news of the night comes in a 6'9 package. Jeff Niemann was struck by an Adam Lind ground ball in the first inning. He finished the frame but wasn't able to come out for the second. According to Mark Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times Niemann has a fractured right fibula, putting him on the disabled list for a few months at least. He had been pitching well this season with a 3.13 FIP and 8.02 K/9 in six starts. Longevity had been an issue as he worked beyond the fifth inning just once. A replacement hasn't been named but it seems likely that Alex Cobb will fill the void in the rotation.
The situation is similar to last September 24th when Niemann left a start against Toronto after just one inning. Alex Torres pitched five innings in relief and the bullpen threw eight scoreless innings as a whole. Tonight, Cesar Ramos, Wade Davis, J.P. Howell, Burke Badenhop and Jake McGee combined to throw eight scoreless innings, allowing just three hits. McGee was particularly impressive, letting the first two men reach in the ninth then getting the next three batters to strike out swinging to end the game.The bullpen has quietly been coming together nicely over the past few weeks, even when pressed into unusual circumstances like tonight.