CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 8: Starting pitcher James Shields #33 of the Tampa Bay Rays pitches during the second inning against the Cleveland Indians at Progressive Field on July 8, 2012 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
The Rays season opened with a comeback victory against Mariano Rivera and the first half comes to an end with a comeback victory against Indians closer Chris Perez. The key player in both victories was Carlos Pena who delivered the key hit to win the game off Rivera and tied the game with a triple in the 9th inning today.
You would have to believe that after the great comeback of 2011 that culminated with the fantastic finish in game 162 that there would not still be fans that would bury this team and leave them for dead but there are. Today's game once again proves that Joe Maddon, the rest of the Rays coaching staff, and the 25-guys on the roster won't give up and lay down for anyone. For the fans that haven't given up hope on the 2012 season, it's time to enjoy the All-Star Break and begin to look forward to an exciting second half of Rays baseball.
James Shields was not particularly sharp on the afternoon but did pitch 7 innnings allowing 5R/4ER on 10 hits while striking out 5, walking 2, and hitting a batter. Joel Peralta picked up the win to improve to 1-3 despite allowing a solo homer to Shin-Soo Choo in the bottom of the 8th inning. The victory was secured by Fernando Rodney who came in to record his 25th save on the season. The victory improved the Rays record to 45-41 and they will finish the first half in 3rd place in the AL East.
Indians starter Zach McAllister was very effective in his 5.2 innings of work allowing 4R/0ER on 4 hits while striking out a career high 8 and walking 3. Joe Smith relieved McAllister to get the last out in the 6th and worked the first two batters in the 7th and was replaced by Tony Sipp who struck out Carlos Pena to end the inning. Vinnie Pestano came in to work an eventful but scoreless 8th inning and Chris Perez followed Pestano and was torched for 3R/3ER on 4 hits in taking the loss to drop to 0-2. For Perez it was only his second blown save of the season and following the same pattern as the Rays but in the negative direction it was his first blown save since blowing a 3-run lead against the Blue Jays on opening day. The victory drops the Indians record to 44-41 and finish the first half in 2nd place in the AL Central.
Game highlights after the jump.
The Indians took a 1-0 lead in the 2nd inning on a Travis Hafner hit by pitch which was followed by a seeing eye single by Michael Brantley. Both Hafner and Brantley advanced when Carlos Santana sent a soft roller back to the mound but Shields elected not to throw to third to get the lead runner. Casey Kotchman made him pay for the lapse in judgement by sending a soft ground ball up the middle to score Hafner.
The Indians lead was extended to 3-0 in the 3rd inning and once again the Rays defense made miscues to allow the runs to score. Johnny Damon led off the inning with a triple over Ben Zobrist's head in right field and came home to score on an errant pickoff throw. After striking out Shin-Soo Choo and getting Asdrubal Cabrera to ground out for the second out Jason Kipnis doubled to left and came around to score on a bouncer that skipped off third baseman Jeff Keppinger.
The Indians tacked on solo runs in the 4th and 5th innings to take a comfortable 5-0 lead. Casey Kotchman was responsible for the Indians 4th and 5th runs on a solo homer to lead off the 4th inning and a 2-out RBI single to drive in Jason Kipnis in the 5th.
The Rays cut the Indians lead to 5-4 in the top of the 6th as a result of two defensive miscues by the Indians. With 1-out Carlos Pena sent an infield grounder to Asdrubal Cabrera but he soft-tossed the throw to first and the hustling Pena beat it out. Ben Zobrist followed with a ground ball to second baseman Jason Kipnis who fired to 2nd for the force out but Cabrera dropped the ball. After B.J. Upton flew out for the second out the suddenly hot Luke Scott drove a ball to the wall to drive in the Rays first two runs. The Rays weren't finished scoring and after Jeff Keppinger walked Desmond Jennings doubled to the opposite field to drive in both Scott and Keppinger and cut the Indians lead to 5-4.
The Rays had a great opportunity to tie the game in the 8th inning. They had the making of a 2-out rally off Indians reliever extraordinaire Vinnie Pestano. After he had struck out Ben Zobrist and B.J. Upton he jumped ahead 0-2 on Luke Scott but missed his location with a fastball which Scott capitalized on by driving a double into the right field corner. Jeff Keppinger followed with a 2-out walk to bring Desmond Jennings to the plate with an opportunity to deliver a key hit and he battled through 10 pitches before striking out on the 11th pitch.
After the Rays missed an opportunity to tie the game in the top of the inning the Indians responded to add the what was thought to be important insurance run in the bottom half of the inning on a solo homer by Shin-Soo Choo off Joel Peralta.
The Rays would not go quietly against Indians closer Chris Perez. After striking Jose Lobaton out to beginning the inning Will Rhymes sent a line drive homer to right to cut the Indians lead to 6-5 and Elliot Johnson followed with a single up the middle to bring Carlos Pena to the plate. Down in the count 1-2 Joe Maddon sent Elliot Johnson from first and Pena hit a sinking line drive to centerfield. Micheal Brantley made a diving attempt but was unable to make the catch and the ball went to the wall scoring Johnson from first and Pena checked in at 3rd. Ben Zobrist came to the plate and lined a single to right to score Pena and give the Rays a 7-6 lead.
Fernando Rodney came and gave up to hits but retired Casey Kotchman on a groundout to end the game.