For a long time, ‘the Tampa Bay Rays win’ was a phrase that you expected to only hear 60 maybe 70 times a year. Well, the Tampa Bay Rays won again last night beating the Boston Red Sox 3-1 and are on a pace to win a franchise record 100 games. The team that for so long was MLB’s runts of the litter have proven night in and out that they’re ready to play and win against anyone.
Matt Garza tossed seven solid innings and was able to out-pitch the Tampa Bay killer, Tim Wakefield. Going into the game, Wakefield had been 19-3 lifetime against Tampa Bay and 9-1 at Tropicana Field. None of this mattered to Garza who allowed only five hits and an unearned run in his second dominant outing in a row. The win improves his season record to 7-4 and lowers his ERA to 3.47 on the year.
“These guys aren’t like they used to be,” Wakefield said. “They’re pretty good over there.”
The Rays have now won seven of their last eight games and hold the best record in all of baseball at 51-32. They continue to play solid baseball and prove the critics wrong that they will be a competitor down the stretch run of the season.
“It’s still a long road, and we have to take it day to day,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said.
The Rays took advantage of a few Wakefield wild pitches to plate two of their runs. In the first inning, Carl Crawford scampered home after a wild pitch and then late in the fourth inning Evan Longoria was able to advance from first to second on another wild pitch to move into scoring position. The very next batter, Dioner Navarro, looped and RBI single to right field to drive in Longoria. Navarro would add some insurance in the eighth inning, driving in his second run of the game to cap the scoring off at 3-1.
With the win, the Rays are now 2 ½ games ahead of the Sox in the AL East, the largest deficit for Boston since they trailed by three games on April 9th.
“I don’t really care to talk about who we’re missing. We showed up to win and they outplayed us,” Red Sox manager Terry Francona said. “That’s what matters to us. … Regardless of who you have out there, you either win or you don’t.”
Francona could be hinting at the absence of Sox slugger David Ortiz from the lineup who has been sidelined now for over a month with a wrist injury. Regardless of Ortiz not being in the lineup, the Sox need to find a way to win close games. They’ve lost four straight now by a total of only five runs.
Their lone run yesterday came on a J.D. Drew sacrifice fly in the 4th inning, but other then that their bats were held in check most of the night by Garza and the bullpen work of J.P. Howell and Grant Balfour in the eight and ninth innings.
“We go out there against Boston fully expecting to win,” Balfour said. “We’re not shocked to win a ball game. It’s really no surprise to us.”
Boston will try to avoid the series sweep for the second time this season in Tampa Bay by sending Dice-K Matsuzaka to the mound to take on Rays ace Scott Kazmir. Matsuzaka is currently 9-1 with a 3.21 ERA on the season while Kazmir’s numbers are also very good at 7-3 on the year with a 2.28 ERA. Matsuzaka has not faced the Rays yet this season while Kazmir will be trying to avenge a loss on his first start of the season back on May 4th.
Following the game, the Sox will head to New York to take on the Yankees in a four game series over the weekend.