If you could reduce the Rays entire season down to half an inning, with a low arm slot lefty on the mound and three right handed hitters up to bat, would you do it?
It's a trick question: The Rays were batting in the bottom of the ninth in a tie, not down a run, so their win probability was pretty decent. Still, the answer should probably be no. There are plenty of games left to play, the Rays are a good team, and baseball is a game of offensive failure. But still, one would have to be pretty pleased with Sean Rodriguez, Yunel Escobar, and Jose Lobaton squaring off against Aaron Loup with the goal of scoring one run.
If the Blue Jays still cared, if they had something to play for, John Gibbons would have managed more like Joe Maddon did. He would have thrown his best relievers in the close game (Maddon sent out Jake McGee, Joel Peralta, and Fernando Rodney [in the top of an inning in a tie game]). But the Mariners don't have anything to play for, so Gibbons brought Loup in to close out the eighth inning against the lefty James Loney and left him in for the ninth inning against the bottom of the Rays order, all righties.
Rodriguez struck out, but Escobar checked his swing in a full count to get aboard. Lobaton then lined a low fastball the other way into the corner for what ended up being scored as a walk off RBI triple.
It took a game effort to get to that point. Jeremy Hellickson pitched a solid but unspectacular game facing off against R.A. Dickey, the Blue Jays' ace. Hellickson used 106 pitches to get through six innings, and gave up nine hits while striking out three and walking only one. Predictably, most of his whiffs came via his changeup (six whiffs in 38 chances). One batter into the first inning, Hellickson hit Maicer Izturis with a pitch and then watched him score on an Adam Lind single, but the Rays would tie it up in the third with a Yunel Escobar triple and a Lobaton single.
In the fifth and sixth innings, the Blue Jays strung together a few hits to take and then extend the lead to 3-1, but it's worth noting that Hellickson, despite his unexciting performance, allowed only one extra base hit all night.
Matt Joyce does not need to manufacture runs. In the bottom of the sixth inning he drew one back, blasting a line drive over the right field wall when Dickey's knuckler floated right into the barrel of his bat. That would set the stage for the bottom of the Rays lineup once more when Yunel Escobar and Sam Fuld batted in a run each in the bottom of the seventh to take the lead.
Peralta could not hold it, and gave up the tying run, but Rodney could (despite a leadoff infield hit). Which of course brings us back to Loup, S-Rod, Escobar, and Lobaton. The team that had nothing to play for refrained from making the percentage move, and the team in the playoff hunt took advantage.
The Rays and the Jays will meet again, tomorrow at 7:10, when Roberto Hernandez takes on J.A. Happ.
More from DRaysBay:
- Series Preview: Toronto Blue Jays
- Wesley Wright and The Rays Way
- Rays Stadium Saga: Bud Selig Promises MLB Intervention
- The One That Got Away: Dane De La Rosa
- An Interview with Gabe Kapler