July 24, 2012; Baltimore, MD, USA; Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jeremy Hellickson (58) pitches in the fourth inning against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Mandatory Credit: Joy R. Absalon-US PRESSWIRE
The Rays defeated the LA Angles 2-0 to spoil the Angels debut of newly acquired Zack Greinke. The Rays pitching staff once again showed why they will be a formidable foe to any team down the stretch as they held a potent Angels lineup scoreless for the last 23 innings of the series.
The victory improved the Rays record to 53-49 and moves them to 2 games out of a wild card spot. The win gave the Rays their second consecutive series win and improved their record to 4-2 on their 9 game road trip. They now head north to Oakland and look to cut into the Athletics wild card lead.
Entering today's start Jeremy Hellickson had received 2.39 runs of support per game (3.67/9IP) this season so pitching in a tight game is certainly nothing new to him. Sunday was no exception and he responded by facing only 20 batters in his 6 innings of work allowing only 2 hits while striking out 5 and walking 0 before departing with a 2-0 lead. Kyle Farnsworth and Joel Peralta followed Hellickson to the mound and worked a scoreless 7th inning and 8th inning but nothing was going to be easy in the 9th.
Fernando Rodney retired pinch hitter Torri Hunter to begin the inning but Maicer Izturis and Howie Kendrick followed with back to back singles to bring Albert Pujols to the plate. Rodney fell behind 3-0 before getting him to ground into the 6-4-3 double play.The win evens Hellickson's record at 6-6 and Fernando Rodney earned his 30th save, It should be mentioned somewhere that one of the unsung hero's of today's game was Carlos Pena who made several very difficult scoops over at first base. If any of the balls were to have gotten by this could have been an entirely different game.
Zack Greinke was very impressive in his Angels debut going 7 innings and allowing only 2R/2ER on 7 hits while striking out 7 and walking 1. Latroy Hawkins followed Greinke and worked a scoreless 8th and Jason Isringhausen worked a scoreless 9th. The loss drops the Angels to 55-47 on the year and they remained tied with the Oakland A's for the AL Wild Card 1 game ahead of the Detroit Tigers.
Fernando Rodney and the Rally Monkey:
Game Highlights after the break
The Rays took a 1-0 lead in the 6th inning on a 2-out RBI single by Matt Joyce that scored Sam Fuld from third. The inning began with a soft fly ball to right center off the bat off Elliot Johnson. Mark Trumbo was unable to track it and Peter Bourjos was unable to get to reach before it landed softly and the hustling Johnson pulled into second with a leadoff double. Desmond Jennings followed Johnson with the sole purpose of sacrificing him to third. After failing twice the bunt sign was not taken off and Jennings pushed the 2-strike bunt foul to strikeout. The frustration was only beginning though. Sam Fuld followed Jennings with a hard grounder to the mound which Greinke fielded and got Johnson hung up in a run down. Luckily, Johnson stayed in the rundown long enough for Sam Fuld to advance to 2nd. Luck tilted back toward the Rays when Ben Zobrist reached safely on a chopper just over the head of Greinke and Joyce followed with the key 2-out base hit.
The Rays increased their lead to 2-0 in the 7th inning with a professional at-bat by Ryan Roberts and a bit of help by Zack Greinke. Carlos Pena led off the inning with a leadoff double into the right field corner to bring Roberts to the plate. He fell behind 0-2 and battled his way to a 3-2 count before punching the ball out to second base to advance Carlos Pena to third. The situational hitting paid off when Greinke spiked a 1-2 pitch to Jose Lobaton that got by Chris Ianetta allowing Pena to score from third.