The lead story in each of the Rays 4 straight wins was their offense. They had set a team record for the most runs ever (43) scored in a 4 game span. Not only that, the Rays had scored double digit runs at home in 3 of those 4 games and had only done that once in their previous 173 games. The Rays offense must have been licking their chops as the Jays were sending Chad Jenkins, a marginal AAA starter, who had worked 10 games out of the bullpen since his recall on August 7th.
Winning streaks are often a result in a teams ability to win various types of games. When they don't pitch particularly well they outscore their opponent and when they don't score a lot of runs the pitching holds the opposition to fewer runs. This was the case on Saturday and Sunday for the Rays as their offense only put up 1 run through the first 8 innings before adding 2 runs in the eighth inning, but Jeremy Hellickson and the Rays bullpen only needed 1 run as they combined for the their 15th shutout on the year in defeating the Jays 3-0.
Jeremy Hellickson (9-10, 3.20 ERA) worked 5.2 innings tip toeing in and out of danger in holding the Blue Jays scoreless on 5 hits on while striking out 6 and walking 2. He was replaced by Jake McGee who struck out Kelly Johnson with the bases loaded to end the 6th inning. Kyle Farnsworth worked .2 innings before giving way to J.P. Howell who retired Colby Rasmus on an outstanding defensive gem to end the top of the 7th. Joel Peralta worked a scoreless eighth and Fernando Rodney worked a scoreless ninth for his 44th save on the season. The victory pushes the Rays win streak to 5 in a row and improves their record to 83-70 and they remain 3.5 games behind the Oakland A's who defeated the New York Yankees 5-4.
Blue Jays starter Chad Jenkins (0-2, 4.24 ERA) has appeared in 11 games for the Blue Jays in 2012 and the Jays have lost each and every one of those games. He did pitch well enough to win on Sunday only giving up a solo homer to B.J. Upton in the first inning but sailed after that completing 5 innings allowing 1R/ER on 2 hits while striking out 4 and walking 1. He was replaced by Steve Delabar who worked a 1.1 innings before giving way to veteran Darren Oliver who came in with 1-out in the 8th and got the final 2-outs. Brandon Lyon came in to begin the ninth inning and gave up 2 runs on 2 hits and a walk before being replaced by Aaron Loup who got the final two outs in the eighth. The loss drops the Jays to 66-85 on the year.
Clutch Moments: The Rays pitching staff had to work out of several jams
The Jays threatened Hellickson in the fifth inning putting runners at 2nd and 3rd with 2-out before Hellickson struck out Brett Lawrie to end the inning.
The Jays threatened the Rays again in the top of the sixth inning. With 1-out Edwin Encarnacion singled and advanced to second on an Adam Lind walk. J.P. Arencibia worked the count full before flying out to right for the second out but Hellickson's failure to find the strike zone continued as he walked Yunel Escobar to load the bases. Jake McGee came into face Kelly Johnson and struck him out to end the inning and preserve the Rays 1-0 lead..
The Jays had another opportunity to tie the game in the top of the 7th but were thwarted by what may be the defensive play of the year for the Rays. With 1-out Anthony Gose sent a flair into short center which fell in between Ben Zobrist and B.J. Upton for a double. Gose advanced to third on a sacrifice fly off the bat Brett Lawrie. With Colby Rasmus due up Joe Maddon elected to go to J.P. Howell for the lefty on lefty matchup. Rasmus flaired a soft liner over Howell's left shoulder. Howell raced backed and fielded the ball with his momentum carrying him back into right field, left his feet, and in mid-air threw a strike to first baseman Carlos Pena to nail Rasmus and end the inning.
Rays Wasted Opportunity:
The Rays had an opportunity to extend their lead in the bottom of the sixth inning but were unable to get a key 2-out hit. With 2-outs Ben Zobrist singled and advanced to 2nd as Evan Longoria beat out an infield single to deep short but Luke Scott struck out to end the inning.
The J.P. Howell Play:
Scoring Highlights After The Jump
The Rays quickly jumped out to a 1-0 lead in the bottom of the first. Desmond Jennings led off the game with a line drive to deep right center field that Colby Rasmus made a beautiful catch on as he crashed into the wall.
The Rays picked up 2 insurance runs and extended their lead to 3-0 in the bottom of the eighth inning. Desmond Jennings led off the inning with a broken bat single into shallow centerfield. After B.J. Upton hit a bullet to Colby Rasmus for the first out Jennings stole his 2nd and with first base open the Jays elected to intentionally walk Ben Zobrist to face Evan Longoria in hopes of getting that double play off the bat of the not so fleet of foot Evan Longoria. The move backfired as Longoria worked the count full before lining a 2-run double off the right field wall.