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Kelly Shoppach Slugs Two Homeruns as Rays Beat Orioles 7-3

That felt good. After watching the Rays stumble around these past few weeks, it was a refreshing change to have the team firing on all cylinders today. The pitching only let up three runs and four hits, the offense scored seven runs on fifteen hits, Evan Longoria had two doubles, and Andy Sonnanstine did a decent job for his second start in a row. It was a good, good day. 

Of course, it didn't start off that way. Dandy Andy had some control issues and walked a couple batters in the first couple innings, but he worked his way out of jams and held the Orioles scoreless through two innings. In the top of the third inning, though, he let Ty Wiggington and Luke Scott reach base on a single and a walk, and then let up a homerun to Adam Jones. Three runs isn't much, but with the way the Rays' offense has been producing recently, it was a scary possibility that it would be enough to let the O's beat the Rays for the second night in a row. 

But then, in the bottom of the fourth inning, the Rays' offense showed why it's one of the best in the league. Evan Longoria began the inning with a double, Willy Aybar singled, and Sean Rodriguez doubled, scoring the Rays' first run of the game. Ben Zobrist then walked on four straight pitches, bringing Kelly Shoppach to the plate. Despite his output this season, Shoppach is typically a power hitter and a constant threat to hit a homerun; he's averaged a homerun every 22 plate appearances over the last two seasons. That power hadn't shown itself so far with the Rays (going into today, he had one homerun in 110 plate appearances), but it certainly did today.

Shoppach got a high, inside fastball and cranked it out to leftfield for a grand slam, giving the Rays all the offense they'd need for the day. He also added an insurance run in the eighth inning, hitting a solo homerun. Other Rays had a good game at the plate, including Willy Aybar who went three for five and knocked in the Rays' sixth run, but Shoppach stole the show.

Other Notes:

  • Andy Sonnanstine faded noticeably as the game went along - started off throwing 88-89 MPH, finished throwing 84-85 MPH - but that's to be expected considering it's the longest he's worked this entire season. He heavily relied on his cutter (threw it 64% of the time), but he did manage to throw strikes with his curveball and generate 14% swinging strikes with his slider. It wasn't an incredible start or anything to get excited about, but it was enough to let the Rays stick in the game and win it. For the Rays' sixth or seventh best starter, it was pretty darn good.
  • This fact is courtesy of Erik Hahmann's twitter feed: "Crawford 2nd half: .211/.240/.295. Upton 2nd half: .253/.337/.446" Crawford's been in a slump recently and it showed today; he only got one hit and didn't look good at the plate in a couple appearances. Upton continues to hit lefties well, though, and went two for four today.  
  • This was the pitching match-up in this series that least favored the Rays, so it was great to see the Rays pick up the win. They'll be going for the series victory tomorrow afternoon behind Jeremy Hellickson. Is it bad that I'm already getting excited to see Hellboy pitch again?