Well that was refreshing.
Through five games at Fenway Park this season, the Tampa Bay Rays were 0-5 while having failed to score more than two runs in any Boston outing, a painful stat that was exacerbated by yesterdays double header disappointment that saw the Rays suddenly cold offense muster just two runs between both games combined.
But Wednesday night the Rays finally, if only temporarily, solved the Fenway puzzle and jumped out with two runs in the first inning, added a third in in the and another three in the en route to a 6-2 victory over the Boston Red Sox. The win brings the Rays back to within six games of the division leading Red Sox and ends a three game losing streak that felt a lot longer.
Desmond Jennings got the party started with a first inning solo home run that was crushed well out of Fenway Park, where it bounced down Lansdowne Street. Back to back singles from Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria combined with a throwing error set up James Loney for a sacrifice fly to give the Rays an early 2-0 lead in the top of the first. A Wil Myers ground-out would end the inning.
Jeremy Hellickson who has dealt with his share of embarrassing outings recently, rebounded from his eight-run, Kansas City shellacking and pitched a clean game, giving up two runs over six innings, scattering seven hits while striking out four. It was just the second time in the last 10 games that a Rays starter has finished the fifth inning.
Both runs that Hellickson allowed could be considered the tough-luck variety as in both cases third baseman Evan Longoria got his glove on the batted ball but was unable to make an impressive play to save a run.
In the bottom of the second inning, Boston left fielder Jonny Gomes hit a ground ball to third that Longoria made a diving stop on to keep in the infield. He was unable to get a good grip on the ball and held off making a wild throw to first, allowing Gomes to reach with an infield single and sending Ortiz (who had doubled off the centerfield wall on a ball that just eluded a leaping Jennings) to the plate to cut the Rays lead in half. The fact that Longoria got to the ball at all is a credit to his outstanding range and recording an out on the play would have been nothing short of sensational, but sensational plays are something we have come to expect from the All Star thrid baseman.
Gomes would strike again in the fourth after some spotty work behind the plate by Jose Molina allowed Jarrod Saltalamacchia to advance to third on wild pitch. The lapse proved costly when Longoria again was the victim of Gomes' good fortune as he was unable to corral a hard liner from Gomes, the shot glancing off the heel of his glove as he leaped to attempt to make the catch.
With the score now tied at two the Rays wasted little time regaining the lead. Molina led off the top of the fifth inning with a single but two quick outs followed, leaving the lumbering catcher at first base. Jennings drew a walk from Boston starter Ryan Dempster bringing Zobrist to the plate. After working a 3-1 count, Zobrist delivered a soft line drive to center field that fell in on front of Jacoby Ellsbury. Molina is not the fleetest of foot so the play at the plate was close but Molina rumbled into home just a step in front of a Saltalamacchia sweep tag, putting the Rays back on top.
Rays phenom Wil Myers collected his first and second runs batted in of his big league career with an opposite field double in the sixth inning, extending the Rays lead to 6-2 in the process. Myers took an 0-2 fastball up and away into right, splitting the outfielders and sending James Loney and Evan Longoria (who had singled in a run earlier in the inning) scampering home.
Jake McGee worked an impressive seventh inning, retiring both Gomes and Stephen Drew on strikeouts with a couple of nasty sliders. Joel Peralta rebounded from last nights walk-off defeat with a one-two-three inning before giving way to Jamey Wright for the ninth inning. Wright quickly retired Mike Napoli and Saltalamacchia before Fernando Rodney entered to record the final out, a swinging strike out of the ever dangerous Gomes.