That felt good. I've almost forgotten what writing about a victory is like. Coming off a disappointing home stand, anything less than a split of the two game series in Boston would have sent Rays' fans running toward the Skyway. Luckily, that's exactly what the Rays did. If the team was going to split the series then losing the first game and winning the second would be how I'd want it. It just doesn't feel good to lose the last game of a series. Luckily a strong pitching performance and some timely hitting (that's not a typo) prevented that.
The pitching was lead by Matt Garza, who went seven innings allowing three runs on six hits while striking out five. This was Garza's second consecutive strong outing after his 1.1IP, 7ER performance in Miami. He was overly reliant on his fastball tonight, throwing it 89 times out of his 110 pitches. This reliance on the fastball caused Garza to register only three ground ball outs while getting 14 of the fly ball variety. He's probably lucky at least one of them didn't leave the park. But right now I really don't care how the Rays do it, just as long as they pick up the win.
To everyone's surprise, the offensive actually came to life. Every starter besides Carl Crawford picked up at least one hit, with Matt Joyce being the star of the show. The right fielder reached base in all five of his plate appearances, drawing two walks, and smacking a double off the wall in center field. If Joyce can hit like he's capable of, the Rays offense would basically have "acquired" a very strong bat for nothing. While Joyce was 5-5, it was the bottom of the Rays order than realy produced the runs tonight. Sean Rodriguez, Kelly Shoppach, and Jason Bartlett went a combined 4-12 with 7 RBI and two extra base hits, one of them being a three run home run by Jason Bartlett off of a right handed pitcher. That may be the most improbable thing to happen to the Rays in months.
As well as things ended up going, the beginning of the night didn't start out so hot. The Rays loaded the bases in the first inning and failed to score, and then had a man on second with no outs and came away empty. The same feeling that has inhabited our bodies for the past month when the Rays have had RISP began settling in, that is until Kelly Shoppach's 4th inning double. Thank goodness, I couldn't take another night of constant blue-balling by the offense.
-I don't know how, but even after their terrible June the Rays have the best run differential in baseball at +94. They're the only team to give up less than 300 runs (h/t Jason Collette)
-The Rays were 19-22 with Hank Blalock on the roster. They're not 26-10 without him. Coincidence? Well, maybe. But still!
-Bartlett's previous 21 home runs had been solo shots.
-He may get tagged as "lazy", but you really do appreciate the defense of B.J. Upton when you see someone else playing center field. Ben Zobrist didn't miss any plays tonight, but he sure did make a few balls far more interesting than they should have been.