After all our bickering, the game still commenced, with all 30,000* people showing up for their bobble heads they desperately needed.
*Actual attendance: probably 2,000
Cesar Ramos started things out agonizingly, walking Dustin Pedroia on ten pitches, recording two K's, and then walking another to reach twenty-five pitches. Pitch 26 was a splitter that Jonny Gomes hit deep for an RBI, followed by a four pitch walk, and honestly I thought the game was over before it'd begun.
Jim Hickey paid a visit to the mound to calm Ramos down, and he got Middlebrooks on a fly out to shallow right field.
Rays 2 - Red Sox 1
The Rays played the same game with Jake Peavy in the fourth, loading the bases on a double by Desmond Jennings, then walks by Loney and Myers. David DeJesus then earned his second RBI of the game by fouling his way to a bases loaded walk. VIDEO
DeJesus had put the Rays on the board earlier in the game with a Pesky Pole HR. VIDEO
Peavy would end his 35-pitch fourth with a hard hit flyball by Yunel Escobar to the warning track in center field.
Pitching Surprisingly Effective
After that difficult first inning, Ramos settled in nicely, including striking out the side swinging in the fourth inning, bringing his tally to five swinging K's.
Also impressive? Ramos fielded a shot from Jackie Bradley Jr. behind the back. The following hitter was Dustin Pedroia, who's liner hit Ramos in the glove, on his 84th pitch. Anything from this point forward would be more than Ramos had ever thrown at the major league level. Over the next twelve pitches, he would walk two batters -- Napoli easily, and Ortiz over a struggle.
Joe Maddon then gave the ball to Brandon Gomes, who'd been horrible in his last outing of Tuesday. Two appearances ago, Gomes had thrown three superior innings, but that seemed to wear him out for his next try, where he walked a few and opened the door for Boston to blow up a tie ballgame.
Two days removed from that uncharacteristic performance, Gomes got Napoli to pop out to the catcher with a 91 fastball in on the hands to Mike Napoli, escaping the two-out jam. In the following inning he racked up two outs quickly, but allowed two singles to right and found another jam.
The Rays chased Peavy after DeJesus and Escobar each worked seven pitches in the top of the seventh for an out and a walk, bringing on Chris Capuano. Jose Molina walked to put two on, but Ben Zobrist grounded into the Rays' second double play of the game.
Challenge in the Seventh
The Rays rolled forward with their one run lead, and the bullpen set for a McGee-Peralta-Balfour final three frames, the top of the order due up for Boston.
Pedroia rocketed a high liner toward short that went off the tip of the leaping Yunel's glove. McGee was not rattled, getting Victorino to foul, foul, and take for strike three on fastballs over the plate and well in the zone. He tried the same thing with David Ortiz, and the second pitch the designated hitter launched one to the green monster.
Mr. Bobblehead was off on contact, running full sprint around the bases. Matt Joyce fielded perfectly with the throw home and Molina laid the tag, called out by the home plate umpire CB Bucknor. The Red Sox third base umpire Brian Butterfield challenged, and the meager crowd cheered loudly in thanks, but the call was confirmed. Pedroia never appeared to touch home, even though his foot slid under the tag.
Butterfield slammed his helmet upon hearing the call and was promptly ejected by the first base umpire Toby Basner. Amped up, McGee started throwing gas, with a foul and two whiffs on fastballs, the payoff pitch at 98.
A Quiet Eighth
Facing former Rays reliever Burke Badenhop, Jennings went down on strike three called just slightly inside of what was ball two, and Longoria would go down to finish the frame looking with called strikes two and three in the same location.
After a Jonny Gomes fly to center, Joel Peralta was able to pepper the strike zone well to Xander Bogaerts, but the at bat ended in a walk. After a few wild pitches that the runner failed to advance on, Peralta worked a pop out from Will Middlebrooks, then a ground out from A.J. Pierzynski, again peppering the edges. Nice work overall.
After a week of rest, Grant Balfour got his turn at the save, and with that rest came plenty of movement on his fastball. He got JBJ looking with a 93 fastball on the outside corner for the first out before allowing a single to Pedroia.
Shane Victorino laid a bunt to move the runner, and believe it or not, Jose Molina fielded wonderfully and got the throw to first base for the second out.
The Rays chose to pitch to David Ortiz with two outs and a man on second, and after a called strike on the low outside corner and a foul inside, Balfour went away once more with an unexpected curve for a soft tapper to the mound!
THE RAYS WIN a white knuckle ball game, and look to stick it in Boston's face in just a few short hours.