Day and night, night and day. Not only can those words be used to describe the gametimes of the doubleheader today, but it's also an apt depiction of the Rays' performance. This may have been a night game, but the Rays played like a whole new team.
The big story of tonight's game is Jeff Niemann. Niemann has been spectacular since his return from the disabled list in early July, posting a 1.65 ERA over 43 IP coming into tonight, and he kept his momentum going tonight. While he worked a slightly different pitch repertoire than he has in recent starts -- working almost exclusively off his fastball (67%) and curve (22%) -- Niemann kept the Boston hitters off balance all night. He struck out 10 batters, induced 8 swinging strikes, and allowed only four baserunners while throwing a complete game.
Niemann's complete game was his first of the season, and it was also the second complete game the Rays threw in the same day (Shields threw one in the first game of the doubleheader). I'm having a tough time tracking down the information, but I'm willing to guess that's the first time the Rays have had two complete games on the same day. At the very least, anyone out there able to find when the Rays last had back-to-back complete games?
On offense, the Rays finally decided to show up. It was a near thing, though; the Rays first got on the board in the second inning thanks to two soft singles, a groundout, and a throwing error by the third baseman. They clung to their lead throughout the game, tacking on one run thanks to a home run from Desmond Jennings, and then blew the game open in the eighth inning when they scored three more runs. And even then, the Rays got some help from the Boston defense, who couldn't get either Ben Zobrist or B.J. Upton out on a botched steal attempt by Upton.
But still, the Rays strung hits together throughout the game and put pressure on Boston's defense. All their hits came from the top six batters in the batting order, and they were able to take advantage of a great pitching performance by Jeff Niemann. Talk about satisfying.
- Desmond Jennings had an excellent game, making a spectacular catch jumping up the Green Monster and hitting both a double and home run. And that home run....wow. Jennings crushed it, hitting it over the Monster seats and into the street beyond. That's his fifth home run of the season (~100 PA) and his second home run in the last three games.
- In the fourth inning, the Red Sox turned a triple play against the Rays. I broke the play down over at SB Nation Tampa Bay, but the basic gist is that with runners on first and second and no outs, Sean Rodriguez hit a hot groundball right at Jed Lowrie at third base. Lowrie was able to quickly step on third and start a 5-4-3 triple play, the second triple play ever turned against the Rays (the first was back in 2006 against the Royals).