The Tampa Bay Rays came back from an early 3-0 deficit to defeat the Houston Astros by a final score of 4-3. The Rays have now won 13 of their past 15 games and 16 of 20 and their record improves to 54-41. The Astros dropped to 2-5 on their current 8-game 3 city road trip and their record drops to 33-60.
Roberto Hernandez can’t control the offense. Over his last 5 starts the Rays have provided only 8 runs of support with him on the mound and 13 runs total in those games.
He had delivered 3 quality starts in a row but had not been credited with a victory compiling a record of 0-2 in those games. It looked like the same outcome may await him as he left the mound after 6 innings allowing 3R/ER on 6 hits striking out 6 and walking 1. He threw 93 pitches, 58 for strikes, and recorded seven groundball outs.
Unfortunately the game was tied at 3-3 and he would need help from his offense in the bottom of the 6th if he was to win his 5th game of the year. They obliged scratching out a 2-out RBI bunt single to take a 4-3 lead.
From there the Rays were able to protect the lead following the familiar pattern of Jake McGee in the 7th , Joel Peralta in the 8th, and Fernando Rodney in the 9th and give Roberto Hernandez the victory. Hernandez improves to 5-10 with a 4.90 ERA. Roberto Hernandez and the bullpen retired 18 of the final 19 Astros.
All three runs he allowed were given up in the first inning. Carlos Pena singled to lead off the game and moved to third on a 1-out double by Jason Castro. J.D. Martinez sent a ground ball to deep short that Yunel Escobar fielded and threw to first for the out but Pena raced home with the Astros first run of the game. With 2-out in the inning Brett Wallace lined a 2-run home run to the bleachers in right to put the Astros up 3-0.
For Hernandez it was all about keeping perspective after the first inning. “When I had trouble in the first inning, I [forgot] about that. The next inning, forget about it and continue to pitch. I keep my team very close and give them a chance like today.”
Joe Maddon was happy with Hernandez’s performance after the first inning, “Obviously, he got better. I thought his last inning might have been his best. He got to about 94 pitches. His fastball actually got better. He just was assertive. He did not want to come out of the game. I know that and I thought again, he got better game in progress. They jumped us early. We were kind of doing the Kon Tiki routine, just drifting out to the Pacific for awhile and then eventually we got it back.”
The Rays tied the game with a 3-spot of their own in the bottom of the 5th inning of Astros starter Dallas Keuchel. Wil Myers led off the inning with a single and came in to score on a Luke Scott home run, his eighth of the year, which cut the lead to 3-2. With 2-out in the inning Yunel Escobar doubled and stole third base. Desmond Jennings was ahead 3-1 in the count and the infield was playing back, including the 1st baseman, so Jennings laid down a bunt that got by the pitcher and was fielded by Brett Wallace who was unable to swipe tag the speedy Jennings as Escobar crossed home plate with the tying run.
The bunt by Escobar was not called for and Joe Maddon made two things clear after the game. The first was that regardless of the unwritten rules of baseball stealing 3rd base with 2-outs opens up many possibilities. The second was that the bunt was not called from the bench “that’s all on teh players on that. That was no signs. I want no credit for that. That was the player’s playing baseball. They see something, they definitely have our full permission to go. I talk about freedom within the clubhouse; I like freedom within the game as well.”
After retiring Ben Zobrist to lead off the bottom of the 6th Keuchel was replaced by Lucas Harrell (5-10, 5.07 ERA) After retiring Evan Longoria on a ground out to 3rd he allowed a single to Wil Myers who got himself into scoring position by stealing second base. As he has done time and time again on this home stand Luke Scott delivered the key hit an RBI single to put the Rays ahead 4-3.
Over his last 23 games (19 starts) Luke Scott is hitting .373 (28 for 75) with 14 extra base hits (8 doubles, 1 triple, and 5 home runs) and has 16 RBI. He has raised his season batting average from .207 to .274 in that time. It’s quite a turn around for Scott who in his previous 24 games (May 14 to June 12) only had 3 extra base hits.
Joe Maddon delivers a message to Scott during the pre-game talk about hunting his pitch. “Just outstanding. We talked about plate discipline, just really organizing the strike zone better. That’s the biggest difference I’ve seen. He’s hitting the ball extremely hard. The home run obvioulsy was huge tonight or this afternoon. It’s nice to see when some guys have been struggling a little bit, other guys have been picking them up. That’s what a good team does.”
Jake McGee came in and worked a scoreless 7th inning striking out two. Since May 10th 25 of his 28 appearances have been scoreless lowering his ERA from 11.25 to 4.34 (25.1IP/3ER) and he has held the opposition to a .119 (10 for 84) batting average against.
Joel Peralta came in to work a x 8th inning. It was his league leading 49th appearance and 24th hold on the year.
Fernando Rodney came in to work the 9th inning and retired the Astros in order to pick up his 22nd save in 26 opportunities. He has now converted his last 13 save opportunities in a row. In the 13 save opportunities he has only allowed 6 hits and struck out 19.