No matter how the rest of the 2013 season goes tonight's win will rank among the best of the year.
The Rays, down 4-0 as late as the sixth inning, rallied multiple times to win the game by a score of 8-7 on a Matt Joyce home run in the bottom of the ninth inning. Let's start from the beginning.
Jeremy Hellickson, like David Price last night, gave up a two out, first inning home run to put the Rays behind immediately.The three run homer came at the hands of Chris Davis, who is hitting a robust .625 so far with seven runs batted in. Hellickson wasn't himself in many respects tonight. over the past three seasons he's had the highest left on base percentage in all baseball over the past three seasons (82.2%), so of course allows the first two baserunners he sees in 2013 to score. He's also traditionally a flyball pitcher -- his flyball percentage of 41.9 is 18th in baseball since 2010 -- but induced 11 groundball outs tonight. That's Alex Cobb and Roberto Hernandez territory.
He settled down nicely after the rough first inning, allowing just one baserunner over the next four. He allowed a run to score in the sixth after Manny Machado's squib double to right allowed him to score on a Chris Davis single. After retiring Brian Roberts to open the seventh, and after the Rays had tied the game in the sixth, Hellickson allowed a walk, and a single, and another single that gave the Orioles the lead again. That'd be it for him as he was replaced by Kyle Farnsworth. He threw his pitches for strikes, the Orioles just squared up a few too many. The five swinging strikes on 31 changeups is a wonderful sight to see, however.
The Rays offense was quiet for the first five innings. They even grounded into double plays in each of the first three. They came alive in the sixth. With one out Desmond Jennings doubled down the left field line. Sean Rodriguez popped out, but Ben Zobrist singled to left, scoring Jennings. Luis Ayala relieved Wei-Yin Chen and promptly allowed a single to Evan Longoria, and Zobrist, who was running on the pitch, was able to make it to third. That brought up Shelley Duncan. This seemed like a perfect opportunity to pinch hit Matt Joyce, though the Orioles had a lefty warming in the pen and may have weighed on Maddon's mind. He stuck with Duncan against the right handed Ayala and was paid handsomely as the new-Ray made his presence felt in his first start, blasting a hanging slider into the left field stands to tie the game.
Joyce would eventually pinch hit with one out in the seventh inning and dropped a bunt for a single down the third baseline against the shift. Kelly Johnson, also batting against the shift, smacked a ball into where the shortstop would normally be playing for a single. Once again the Rays had the runner in motion and Joyce was able to advance to third. That would prove key as as wild pitch by Pedro Strop allowed Joyce to score the tying run. A James Loney pinch-hit double and a single by Ben Zobrist put the Rays up two heading into the eighth.
Joel Peralta got Chris Davis to pop up to shallow left field, but with the shift on the ball dropped and spun towards the foul line, allowing him to advance to second. Matt Wieters then hit a blooper to left to score Davis and bring the O's within one. Peralta was able to recover and strikeout J.J. Hardy to end the inning.
Heading into the top of the ninth Fernando Rodney toed the rubber, looking to shoot ‘dem arrows into the Tropicana Field sky. His night began roughly as he walked Nolan Reimold in a full count to leadoff the inning. The seventh pitch of the at bat was called a ball but Pitch f/x confirms it was a strike. The next batter, Brian Roberts, doubled down the left field line scoring Reimold and tying the game. A sacrifice bunt by Nate McClouth moved the go-ahead run 90 feet away. The Rays brought the infield in and the move paid off as Machado grounded out sharply to short. Rodney got Markakis to also ground out to short, which ended the inning and set the stage for the Joyce. Yes, he blew his first save attempt of the season, but he looked good aside from the pitch to Roberts that caught a bit too much of the outside of the plate.
Joyce didn't waste time in ending the game, belting a belt high fastball that Tommy Hunter grooved down the middle into the right field stands, sending the Rays bench erupting over the railing towards home plate and sending the team home a winner. Here's the pitch.
- That was the first walk-off hit of Matt Joyce's career
- The Rays won a one run game against the Orioles after being 1-6 in such games last season.
- The Orioles lost a one run game after being an historic 29-9 in them last season.
- The Orioles didn't have a walk-off loss all of last season.
- The last time the Rays overcame a 4-0 deficit to win at home was game 162 against the Yankees.