Leave it to the Orioles pitching to awaken the Rays bats. Piggybacking off of last night's six run effort the Rays broke out again, this time scoring eight runs to pick up the series victory over Baltimore.
Jeremy Hellickson didn't have the most overpowering stuff today (seven swinging strikes) in throwing the second complete game of his career, but when you induce the kind of weak contact he was able to today it's not necessary. He got the Orioles batters to hit 18 ground balls, and only two balls were hit hard all day -- both by Adam Jones. He was remarkably efficient, throwing just 97 pitches and not walking a soul. He's been very good at home this season, posting a 3.88 xFIP coming into this game as opposed to 5.23 mark on the road and a nearly three point drop in his BB/9 while at the Trop.
The Orioles stood no chance. Hellickson retired 11 of the first 12 batters he faced. The only thorn in his side today was Adam Jones, who broke up his no hitter with a home run to lead off the fifth inning and doubled in the seventh. Other than that Hellickson used a very good mix of pitches to keep the Orioles off balance. He recorded strikes over 70 percent of the time with his fastball and used his changeup, along with the 12 mph difference, to keep the hitters off balance. His other complete game shutout this season also came against the Orioles back in May. He needed 120 pitches to finish that game off. He's faced the Orioles twice on the road this season hasn't fared nearly as well, lasting just 10.2 innings and giving up five runs total in those starts. Home field advantage indeed.
The offense kept the hot hitting form last night going. Every batter reached base at least once and the numbers eight and nine hitters -- Reid Brignac and Sean Rodriguez -- drove in five of the teams eight runs. Any time Rodriguez can get a hit off of a right handed starter that's a great sign; it's even better when that hit his a two run homer. The biggest hit of the game was probably Reid Brignac's three run double in the third. The Rays had loaded the bases with two outs and looked to be coming away with just one run for their efforts. Adam Jones was playing a very shallow centerfield and Brignac smacked a double to deep left-center. It's understandable that Jones was plaing so shallow, and considering Brignac had only three extra base hits all year coming into the game I don't think anyone expected him to double. That gave the Rays a 6-0 lead and broke the game wide open, not that Hellickson needed the help.
- Mark Reynolds may be the worst defensive player I've ever seen. He booted a Brandon Guyer grounder with two outs and the bases loaded. Had he fielded it clearly the Brignac double doesn't happen. He also let a ball go through his legs later in the game that let Longoria get all the way to second. God bless the Orioles for not putting him at DH.
- After a poor two months Matt Joyce responded with a productive August. He hit his 18th home run of the year today, so hopefully September continues to treat him well.
- Tomorrow the Rays face the Rangers and Scott Feldman. He dominated the Rays for six innings in his last start, allowing just three base runners. Scott Feldman is not what you would call a "good" "pitcher". The Rays need to remind him of that and keep this offensive binge going.