BY: Kevin Weiss
Solid pitching and timely hitting by the Rays (51-53) helped them defeat the Red Sox (47-57) before a packed and energetic crowd at the Trop. Jeremy Hellickson was solid in his second start of the season, striking out five in 4.2 innings. While he struggled with command at times walking two batters, he was still able to baffle hitters by mixing his fastball and changeup.
Matt Joyce got the ball rolling in the bottom of the first with an RBI single off John Lackey, scoring Desmond Jennings who had reached third base on a bunt after a costly throwing error by Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez.
A classic case of small ball in the bottom of the fourth helped the Rays take a 2-0 lead. It started off with a Yunel Escobar single, and then Jose Molina executed a sacrifice bunt to advance Escobar to second. Kevin Kiermaier stepped up and drove in Escobar with a bloop single to centerfield.
In the bottom of the seventh, Ben Zobrist ended John Lackey’s night after providing an insurance run with a two-out solo shot over the right field fence to put the Rays up for good 3-0.
Despite struggles all season, Grant Balfour pitched well in relief and was credited with the win after helping the Rays get out of a jam in the sixth inning, then working a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the seventh.
In the top of the 9th, Jake McGee used his dominant and overpowering 96 MPH fastball to strike out Xander Bogaerts and Jackie Bradley Jr., notching his 11th save of the season.
The Rays current 9-game winning streak is the 2nd-longest in franchise history and is one shy of the longest in the majors this season. The Rays have outscored opponents 48-15 in this current streak. They were able to gain a game in both the AL East (6.5 GB of Baltimore) and the AL Wild Card (3.5 GB of New York and Toronto for the second wild card.)
On Sunday afternoon, the Rays look to sweep the Red Sox at the Trop. RHP Chris Archer ( 6-5, 3.31 ERA) will oppose RHP Allen Webster, who will be making his first big-league start this season. Our coverage on 620 AM WDAE and 95.3FM begins at 11:30 a.m. with the Suncoast Hyundai Dealers Inside Pitch.