The Rays defeated the Baltimore Orioles to win their 10th game in 13 tries and their 5th in a row at Tropicana Field. The victory improves the Rays record to a season high 7 games over .500 at 34-27 and with the loss the Orioles fall to 34-28.
Jeremy Hellickson (4-2, 5.18 ERA) was outstanding working 6 scoreless innings allowing only 4 hits striking out 5 and walking none. On the afternoon he threw 96 pitches and 62 were for strikes. Alex Torres, Jamey Wright, and Kyle Farnsworth shut the Orioles out over the final 3 innings.
For Hellickson it was the first time he won back to back decisions since July 24 and July 29th, 2012. The Rays have scored 50 runs with him on the mound dating back 8 starts (May 1st) which equals a R/9 IP of support of 9.25 and is the highest in the majors during that period.
Joe Maddon was pleased that Hellickson was “down in the zone, everything was down in the zone. Some strikeouts, some popups. Kept the ball in the ballpark which is kind of nice also.” Hellickson parroted Maddon by saying that he was very happy with his stuff. “Throwing strikes with everything and getting ahead of guys, keeping the fastball down on the corners. That’s what I’ve got to do from here on out.”
The Orioles only threatened Hellickson in two innings, the 1st and the 5th. In the 1st inning they put 2-on with 2-out drawing 23 pitches but Chris Davis popped out to end the inning. After retiring 10 batters in a row Matt Wieters and J.J. Hardy opened the 5th with back-to-back singles before Chris Dickerson struck out. Ryan Flaherty sent a ground ball to James Loney who threw to 2nd for the force out and Yunel Escobar‘s relay throw was in time for the double play but Hellickson was late getting to the bag and Flaherty was safe. The play did not hurt as Nate McClouth flew out to left to end the inning.
Hellickson admitted that getting out of the fifth was “huge, getting out of that with a zero and then in the bottom half putting up a five spot, kind of put the game out of reach.”
Alex Torres worked a 10-pitch scoreless 7th inning striking out 2 hitters and after the game Joe Maddon explained using Torres by saying that “once we got all those runs, I wanted to use him for the one inning. And then it sets up well for Jamey (Wright) and Kyle (Farnsworth) to get some work also. But he’s done a nice job. He’s becoming a little bit of a weapon right now.
The Rays offense continued to hit with runners in scoring position (6 for 13) to improve their league leading average with RISP to .303 (150 for 495). This is quite an improvement in the “get the man in” department where they hit only .243 in 2012.
The bottom trio in the Rays order combined to go 7 for 11 with a walk, 3 runs scored, and 5 RBI. Luke Scott went 1-3 with a walk, a run scored, and 3 RBI, Jose Lobaton went 3 for 4 with a run scored and a RBI, and Yunel Escobar went 3 for 4 with a RBI.
For Jose Lobaton today is just more of the same. Since April 25th he is hitting .239 (25 for 76) with 9 extra-base hits and 10 RBI and 10 walks and in that span leads all AL catcher (min 75 PA) with an OPS (on-base% + slugging%) of .907.
The Rays extended their lead to 3-0 in the 2nd inning. Luke Scott drew a 1-out walk, moved to second on a single by Jose Lobaton, and came into score on a Yunel Escobar RBI single. Gausman came back to strike out Matt Joyce for the 2nd out in the inning but was unable to escape further damage as Ben Zobrist delivered a 2-out RBI single.
The Rays broke the game open in the bottom of the 5th inning and in the process knocked Orioles starter Kevin Gausman out of the game. Ben Zobrist doubled to lead off the inning, Evan Longoria drew a 1-out walk and James Loney delivered an RBI single to give the Rays a 4-0 lead. Desmond Jennings walked to load the bases and left hander T.J. McFarland was brought in to the game to face the left handed hitting Scott. McFarland didn’t win the battle as Luke Scott cleared the bases by lacing a triple into the right field corner. Jose Lobaton chased Scott home with a double to complete the Rays scoring.
The Rays will look for their second consecutive sweep against the Orioles tomorrow afternoon at 1:40. The Rays will send Matt Moore (8-1, 2.95 ERA) to the mound and the Orioles will counter with Chris Tillman (5-2, 3.97 ERA).