Roberto Hernandez gave the Rays a much needed 7+ quality innings and their offense battered Red Sox starter Jon Lester as the Rays won the middle game of their 3-game series by a final score of 8-3. The victory goes to Roberto Hernandez (4-6, 4.91 ERA) and the Rays improve their record to 35-29.For the Red Sox the loss goes to Jon Lester (6-3, 4.12 ERA) and their record falls to 40-26.
The big story of the game was Roberto Hernandez who the Rays were leaning hard on to provide innings in order to save their bullpen which was taxed in the 14-inning marathon on Monday evening.
The Rays had also lost 2-games in a row and not only needed innings but quality innings to have a chance at the victory. Hernandez delivered on both fronts delivering a career high 122 pitches in holding the Red Sox to just 3R/ER on 7 hits while striking out 7 and walking just 2 before departing with 2-on and nobody out in the 8th inning.
It marked the 8th time in 12 starts this season that Hernandez has worked into the 6th inning or later in a game and it was his 5th quality start (6IP, 3 earned runs or less) of the season. A total of 77 of his 122 pitches were strikes and he recorded 13 swinging strikes. It wasn’t an easy effort for Hernandez as he got stronger as the game moved along as he was shaky early in the game.
Hernandez got off to a rocky start as the Red Sox picked up where they left off in the 14th inning yesterday using singles by Jacoby Ellsbury and Shane Victorino to put runners on the corners with nobody out. Dustin Pedroia hit a sacrifice fly to score Ellsbury with the Red Sox first run. Hernandez came back to strike out David Ortiz and retired Mike Napoli on a ground out to end the inning and strand Victorino in scoring position.
The Rays came back to tie the game in the 1st inning as Jon Lester’s control issues that would plague him throughout his outing surfaced. Desmond Jennings led off the game with a single and advanced to second on a walk to Sean Rodriguez. Lester came back to get a double play ball off the bat of Ben Zobrist as Desmond Jennings advanced to 3rd. Lester issued walks to Evan Longoria and Yunel Escobar to load the base and then walked James Loney with the game tying run.
Desmond Jennings led off the 2nd inning with a 422 foot solo blast to give the Rays their first lead of the series at 2-1.
The Red Sox took a 3-2 lead on in the top of the 3rd inning. With runners on 1st and 2nd and 2-out Hernandez fell behind David Ortiz 2–0 and Joe Maddon elected to intentionally walk Ortiz to load the bases and allow Hernandez to face right handed batter Mike Napoli. Napoli made the Rays pay by dropping a well placed single that fell softly between Ben Zobrist, Desmond Jennings, and Ryan Roberts to score both Jose Iglesias and Jacoby Ellsbury.
It looked like it was going to be another quick evening for both starting pitchers as pitch counts were piling up and neither was effective but then a switch ignited in Roberto Hernandez and he settled into a groove. He went on to strike out the side in the 4th inning on his way to retiring 9 of the next 11 hitters including striking out the side in the 4th inning.
While Hernandez settled into his rhythm and was pounding the strike zone with efficiency the Rays pounded the inconsistent Jon Lester adding a run in the 4th on an Evan Longoria solo home run and 3-runs in the 5th on a monster 425-foot 2-run homer by Matt Joyce which ended Lester’s evening. Jose De La Torre came in to replace Lester and was greeted with a solo shot by Desmond Jennings.
The Rays offense was once again superb. They had another 10-hit evening which included 4 home runs. They have now had 4-homer games in back to back games for the first time in franchise history. They drew 10 walks to go along with their 10 hits in scoring 8 runs. Jon Lester only lasted 4.2 innings allowing 7R/ER on 8 hits while issuing 7 walks and striking out only 3. It was only the second time that Lester had issued 7 walks in a game (09/11/12 vs Yankees).
Desmond Jennings returned to the leadoff spot and went 3-5 with 2 home runs (#7 and #8 on the year) and scored 3 runs. Matt Joyce getting the rare start against a lefty was 2 for 3 with his 12th home run on the year and had 2 RBI and added a stolen base. Sean Rodriguez was on base 3 times in 5 trips with a single and 2 walks.