Ben Zobrist provided much of the lumber and Jeff Niemann held the Orioles hitters at bay this evening, as the Rays feasted on the Orioles September call-ups and slid up a half game in the wild card race. The Zorilla led the Rays to their fifth straight win, going 3-5 with a double, three RBI, and a stolen base. His biggest hit, a second inning, two-out double off the left field wall, scored both Brandon Guyer and B.J. Upton to give the Rays a 2-0 lead. Sean Rodriguez would follow with a seeing-eye-single between first and second to score Zobrist and give the Rays a lead they would never relinquish.
Jeff Niemann earned his tenth win of the season in an outing that was a bit of a roller coaster. He only got into trouble in one inning, the fifth, where he threw 29 pitches and got himself a one-out, men-on-second-and-third jam. But, after a key strikeout to rookie Matt Angle, Niemann could coax a J.J. Hardy gorundout and escape the inning only giving up one run. He surrendered another run in the sixth on a Matt Wieters solo blast to left-center. Remember, long ago, when I said that this game was a roller coaster? Well, it was a boring roller coaster, definitely not worth the price of admission to the theme park. Luckily, this was a baseball game.
I thought Nieman pitched well, and adapted well to home plate umpire Phil Cuzzi's strikezone. Niemann was up in the zone for much of the day, but Cuzzi gave some high strike calls that helped out the Stork. Niemann also made use of a wide inside-to-righties strikezone. He had five strikeouts on the day and just seven swinging strikes, but he was able to induce weak contact from the O's hitters.
The last big thing to take from the night was B.J. Upton setting a team record for consecutive plate appearances reaching base. B.J. walked in the first and third, and doubled in the fifth and seventh to extend his streak to nine consecutive appearances reaching base. He couldn't make it to double digits, however, as he K'd in the eighth inning to end the streak.
Let's keep in mind, this is an Orioles club playing for literally nothing except to evaluate some September call-ups, but "a win is a win is a win" as they say, and the Rays can use those right now. At this point, I'd say this series against the O's is just as important as the upcoming Red Sox series because the Red Sox still have seven games against these very same Orioles. Let's hope these Oriole newbies can feast on some downtrodden Sox pitching in the coming weeks.
Tomorrow, David Price takes on Alfredo Simon @ 7:05 PM Eastern. Let's make it six in a row and cross out fingers that Brandon Morrow and the Jays can tackle Old Man Wakefield and the reeling Red Sox. Both games start at the same time so I'm sure tomorrow's GDT will have you covered.