Or: "When It Rays, It Pours"
Jeremy Hellickson pitched 7.0 strong innings, striking out 6, walking 1 and allowing only a single ER. Yeah, he was pitching against some weak competition, but the 6 strike outs stick out to me. The Kansas City Royals -- being the anti-Tampa Bay Rays that they are -- have the league's lowest strikeout rate. Getting 6 punch outs against a contact-heavy team like that is something I would not have anticipated from high-FIP Helly, but he did it anyway, that nerd.
Sean Rodriguez (1 for 3 with a walk) got the Rays started as he came home on an Elliot Johnson RBI single. The Royals tied it 1-1 in the top of the third. They did it the way they do offense best: All singles, baby. Tampa Bay took a 2-1 lead after Desmond Jennings (2 for 4 with a double and triple) hit his first of two blamtopia line drives to the outfield wall -- this one clanging off the wall in right for a DeJe triple. A wild pitch from Royals starter Will Smith later and the Rays had the lead again.
They added another 2 runs in the bottom of the fourth, chasing starter Will Smith, but they should have had even more when home plate umpire Gary Darling missed a seemingly easy call and said Elliot Johnson was out at the plate. Jeff Keppinger, starting at first base against the lefty, clobbered his 6th homer of the season in the bottom of the 5th to put the Rays up 5-1, and that was it. Game ovah.
- Sam Fuld made a pair of strong plays. He came in hard and snared a liner early in the game, and then ranged back to grab another liner in the 5th inning -- high-fiving the massive Zim Bear in the outfield, high-fiving him with his face.
- Elliot Johnson nearly had two errors on bad throws. His first bad throw, Jeff Keppinger managed to dig, but the second bad throw sailed high and Keppinger came off the bag, which allowed the speedy Alcides Escobar to reach first. He had another wide throw in the 8th inning, but it came on a tough grounder to short and Carlos Pena managed to snare it and apply the tag.
- Elo also had a pair of line drive singles, though, and his season season numbers are easing back towards 90 wRC+ after an extended cold streak this month. So there's that. Nonetheless, he made a great argument for Ben Zobrist (DHing tonight) at shortstop.
- Ryan Roberts tried to turn a double play in the top of the 6th, but his laser beam dragon throw tore right through Keppinger's glove. The Rays got a double play on the next batter, though, so no harm.
- Sam Fuld had a Super Sam hustly double in the 8th. DON'T LOOK NOW, BUT: Fuld, through 550 PA entering today, has 2.7 WAR and a 94 wRC+. That's good enough to be a starter on more than a few teams. (Pretty much any team that employed Juan Pierre at any point since 2007.)
- Catcher has got to be the hottest position for the Rays right now, what with Jose Molina getting a little crushtastic (not to mention the steals), and now Jose Lobaton has added another 2 singles and a walk in his effort on Monday.
- How about this team? They have now scored 5 or more runs in five consecutive games since being PG'd, and have won 12 of their last 14. At the time of publication, all three major AL East teams (Rays, Yankees and Orioles) have either won or are winning, but the Athletics are playing the Fightin' Minnesota Twins, so hopefully that works in Tampa Bay's favor (it probably won't).