Rays take the Citrus Series homestand; win on Jennings walk-off single

Desmond Jennings saves the day - USA TODAY Sports

The Rays donned their light-burst batting practice caps and hosted a fund raiser for the Rays Foundation, featuring a #RaysChat with the official twitter account for the team. It was a record draw for the annual "Broadcast Auction" -- unfortunately, it was mired in a poor performance by Hellickson and kind of another rough outing against the Marlins. Thankfully, it ended in another Rays win, as well.

Derek Dietrich, yes the guy we sent to Miami for Yunel Escobar and hadn't bat higher than Class-A before this season, rocked the Trop. His first two at bats saw him launch a pitch to the center field wall, and both times he made it home to score. He was the first run after a poorly chosen fastball to (former Rays outfielder) Ruggiano, and led off a three run third inning that should have ended after two strikes and runners in the corners. Hellboy couldn't get it done, "just over the glove of Matt Joyce" is nothing fun to chat about, and the Marlins took a 4-0 Miami lead.

Meanwhile, the other half of that trade was lighting it up for the Rays along the way. Yunel Escobar batted a single, a double and a single, with two RBI along the way to a Rays win -- but let's not get ahead of ourselves.

The Rays offense first got fired up after Lobaton beat out Dietrich's throw from deep behind second base on a grounder up the middle. Zobrist loaded the bases after the first Escobar single before Joyce (sac fly) and Johnson (double) brought two runners home. The Rays left the next two stranded, but the offense was on. Jennings and Escobar doubled in the fourth to bring the Rays closer, 4-3 Miami.

Hellickson allowed a fifth run to score on a lead off homer to Chris Coghland the following inning, and after one more out, it was up to a worn out bullpen to carry this Rays offense -- the first team this season to allow five or more runs to the Marlins in back-to-back games.

The Rays answered in the bottom of the frame with a double by Scott, a walk by Jennings, and a Lobaton double to plate the runners on one out. Kevin Slowey was lifted after the Scott at-bat, going the same distance as Hellickson in a pathetic but matched performance. Game tied 5-5.

Wright took the Rays through six and seventh without much ado, and wouldn't you know, it was Joel Peralta to cover the eight. For those keeping track at home, that makes four straight appearances and six in the last seven games. He also owns an AL-leading 28 games this season.

Things got dramatic with two outs. On his seventeenth pitch, Peralta's lone base runner took off for third on a ball bouncing off the plate on a wild pitch. Lobaton found the ball on rolling and fired to Longo who dropped to intercept the runner and the ball on a low throw. Ozma collided with Longo in a face first slide, and the ball broke loose. Dobbs followed with a single through the left side that Longo couldn't reach while guarding third base. 6-5 Miami.

The Rays responded in turn: Loney went quickly, but Luke Scott looked solid with a single to center that dropped in front of the sunburst logo, and Jennings singled on a well hit hopper through the left side. Sean Rodriguez subbed for Lobaton and got caught looking on a hard slider inside that hadn't been called all night long. Tough Break.

With two outs, enter Escobar. With his RBI single and a double already booked, Yunel tied the game on an easy single to right field. The throw home was wide by ten feet, and that's the only reason Luke Scott didn't have to contest for the plate. Game tied 6-6.

THe Marlins intentionally walked Zobrist fill the sacks, and Ryan Roberts (.394 with bases loaded) got the call for Joyce. A hard bouncer the short was almost enough as Zobrist challenged Dietrich at second base. The Miami foot hit the pad first, and Dietrich went tumbling, but he held on to end the inning.

The Ninth

Fernando Rodney made his ninth inning appearance, although the game was merely tied. Maddon still believes in Plantain Power for high leverage situations, and dadgummit, so should we.

Rodney earned a soft tapper to second, fooled Juan Pierre with a change up that rolled to first, and sat Placido Polanco down with a nasty 96 MPH fastball on his fifteenth pitch. It was a little erratic, but a great result.

Red hot Kelly Johnson hit a bouncer off the end of the bat that Marlins pitcher Mike Dunn tried to field with his bare hand. The ball was knocked down and thrown to first, but KJ legged out the single, continuing a great Rays tradition of hustle.

Longoria stepped up to a now erratic Dunn and took two balls and then a nasty slider inside for the first strike. Dunn tried that again on the fifth pitch, and Longo hit a hard grounder to left field.

James Loney with no-outs and two on came up with no hits on the evening, and the Marlins were content to leave Dunn in. Loney squared a bunt on the first pitch for a foul ball, swung and fouled a 90 MPH fastball that felt like a change to me, and then flew out on a similar swing to close his book 0-5.

Luke Scott followed suit on a lazy fly to left to bring up Desmond Jennings on two outs. With Dunn's day finally over, the Marlins brought in our old friend Chad Qualls, who you might remember gave the Rays a first-round draft pick (as compensation after playing for the team Aug-Oct in 2010 and signing elsewhere -- which inspired what might as well have been called the Friedman Rule and led MLB to reorganize the compensation process). It wasn't his first time facing the Rays since '10, but today he would give the Rays another gift, the win.

Desmond Jennings, batting seventh, took an 0-1 fastball down the middle to right field on a liner, and Kelly Johnson made his way home for the walk off win. Both pitches were 95 MPH and slightly away. Never throw the same pitch twice. Rays win!

After the game, DJ said about his new livelihood batting lower in the lineup, "I don't know what it is, it's a good feelin', but I'm feelin' better."

Final Lines:

TAMPA BAY IP H R ER BB SO HR PC-ST ERA
J Hellickson 5.1 7 5 5 1 3 1 104-67 5.61
J Wright 1.2 1 0 0 0 1 0 17-11 3.68
J Peralta 1 2 1 1 0 0 0 24-17 2.13
F Rodney (W, 2-2) 1 0 0 0 0 1 0 15-9 5.48

MIAMI IP H R ER BB SO HR PC-ST ERA
K Slowey 5.1 8 4 4 0 4 0 93-62 3.59
R Webb (B, 1) 0.2 1 1 1 1 0 0 15-7 2.96
D Jennings 1 1 0 0 0 0 0 10-5 0
M Dunn (L, 1-1; B, 1) 1.2 5 2 2 1 1 0 31-24 2.38
C Qualls 0 1 0 0 0 0 0 2-2 3.05

The Rays take two gun shows in the Trop, and play two more in the house Loria built to finish the Citrus Series on Wednesday and Thursday.

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