Tampa Bay Rays
Rays keep their cool, shut out Texas
ARLINGTON, Texas -
On the surface, there were plenty of signs to indicate Wednesday would be another long afternoon at Rangers Ballpark for the Tampa Bay Rays, and that's not including a slow-moving rain storm that delayed the first pitch by 89 minutes and the cold front that chilled the park to 39 degrees at game time.
Matt Moore walked a career-high six batters. The bullpen kept getting itself into trouble. The offense? Barely a pulse.
Yet, the Rays are an under-the-hood kind of team, and under the hood things ran smoothly.
The result was a 2-0 victory against the Texas Rangers that snapped a three-game losing streak and sent the Rays to Boston in their sporty letterman jackets for an off day today followed by a four-game series with the first-place Red Sox.
“Kind of a game you have to win,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “Get-away day like this, having lost two in a row here, some tough moments here, also. It just shows the resiliency of our group and the fact these guys do not give in.”
Moore was wild at times. He also allowed one hit in 51/3 innings.
The offense managed only six hits and let another bases-loaded situation go by without a hit.
But Ben Zobrist hustled up the first-base line on his grounder to third base with the bases full in the third inning and beat the relay throw to avoid the inning-ending double play. That allowed Kelly Johnson to score the first run of the game.
The second run was the result of a leadoff double by Desmond Jennings in the fifth inning followed by a groundout to second by Sean Rodriguez and a sacrifice fly to right field by Evan Longoria.
To recap: That's two runs on a force-out and a sac fly.
“You have to do the little things right and at least make contact in those situations,” Zobrist said.
Zobrist also came up big on the defensive end when he turned a fly ball to right field in the eighth inning by Jeff Baker into an inning-ending double play by throwing out Adrian Beltre at the plate. Beltre had tagged from third base and was trying to score.
That was the third of three inning-ending double plays turned by the Rays.
“We're not scoring a lot of runs,” Joel Peralta said, “but when we pitch like we did (Wednesday) and play good defense, a couple of runs are going to win the game.”
It was a much-needed win for the Rays, who have had better starts to road trips.
Monday's game ended on a widely disputed called third strike by home-plate umpire Marty Foster. Rangers rookie pitcher Nick Tepesch, making his major league debut Tuesday, shut down the Rays offense.
Then came Wednesday's rain delay. At 39 degrees, it was the second-coldest start time temperature to a regular-season game in Rays history behind 33 degrees on April 17, 2003 in Boston. It was also the coldest for an afternoon game at Rangers Ballpark.
“Technically,” Moore said, “this would have been a nice spring start for us in New Mexico in high school.”
Moore's rhythm came and went Wednesday. He had just one perfect inning. Yet he took a no-hitter into the fifth.
In two starts this season, Moore is 2-0 with 0.00 ERA. He's allowed only three hits in his 111/3 innings.
Cesar Ramos, Jake McGee, Peralta and Fernando Rodney followed, and Maddon summed up their performances like this: “Cesar got out of a jam, and then Jake got out of a jam, and Peralta got out of a jam, and eventually Fernando closed it out. I'll take it. You have to win those kinds of a game to get on a roll.”
A roll? Can Wednesday's win, imperfect as it was, really be the start of a roll?
“You hope so,” Zobrist said. “The (first) two days were tough days. They were tough losses for us, but getting a win going into the off day certainly feels a lot better, albeit how cold it was and we didn't necessarily kill the ball. But we got the 'W' and that's important.”