Hellickson’s Return Provides Encouragement For Rays
The Tampa Bay Rays (42-51) defeated the Kansas City Royals (46-43) by a final score of 4-3. Brad Boxberger (2-1, 2.57 ERA) picked up the win and Jason Vargas (8-4, 3.31) was handed the loss. The Rays have now won four of their last five, nine of their last 11, and 18-9 since June 11th.
Encouraging. That is probably the best word to describe Jeremy Hellickson‘s return to the Rays rotation on Tuesday evening as he allowed one earned run in 4.1 innings of work. He allowed six hits striking out two and walking one while making 84 pitches with 54 for strikes.
He departed with one out and runners on the corners of a scoreless game in the top of the fourth inning. Brad Boxberger was brought in to try to keep the Royals off the board. “He [Hellickson] was doing fine. Fastball velocity was actually really good I thought. Some good changeups, some good curveballs.” Joe Maddon said. “I pulled him at that point because he’s not been out there a lot. Here’s a game that, again, we’re talking about, you know we really want to win that game. We’re trying to win the series. Eighty-five pitches, something like that, it’s his first time out so Boxy was the right guy I thought at that moment.”
Boxberger allowed one run to score on an chopper off the bat of Salvador Perez to give the Royals the 1-0 lead but the Rays offense would come back in large part thanks to the hustle of Brandon Guyer.
Ben Zobrist led off the bottom of the sixth inning with a single and Guyer followed with a single toward the left field line. Noticing that Alex Gordon was not using max effort to get to the ball Guyer took off and extended the single into a double. The move paid immediate dividends as Evan Longoria punched a single through the right side of the infield scoring both Zobrist and Guyer giving the Rays the 2-1 lead.
After the game Jason Vargas felt he may have lost concentration during the Longoria plate appearance. Possibly rattled by the hustle of Brandon Guyer or lack of hustle by Alex Gordon? “It’s just one of those times you wish you did not have a mind lapse or give up halfway through the pitch” Vargas said. “We weren’t able to recover. He’s a good hitter, can handle the bat really well, saw a hold, got a pitch he could do something with and come through for his team. You throw good ones and bad ones. That was a bad one, a lazy one, and it set them up to have an inning that changed the game for them.”
With the lead in hand the Rays bullpen went to work. Grant Balfour worked a scoreless seventh but did give up a 2-out triple to Lorenzo Cain. Joel Peralta gave up two hits and retired two batters in the top of the eighth before giving way to Jake McGee who came in to end the inning.
The Rays added two insurance runs int the bottom of the eighth and again it was started by Brandon Guyer who laid down a perfect bunt to lead off the inning with a single. Evan Longoria sent a ground ball to Alcides Escobar who tried to beat a hustling Guyer to the bag of a force out but could not and in doing so was unable to nab Longoria at first.
It turned out the runs were very much needed as the Royals mounted a rally against Jake McGee plating a pair of runs and had the tying run at second with two out but McGee struck out Omar Infante to end the game and picked up his sixth save in the process.
Getting a save against any team is tough but four out saves in today’s game are not only slightly more difficult but far less common. “Any time you go out and try to get the last four outs of the game is always tough, especially a team like this. They have some good hitters over there.” McGee said. “It’s hard to do. It’s nice to have that insurance policy, but at the same time, you should not be giving up two runs and making it that close.”