[image-1]Nine equals eight took on a new meaning Wednesday night, as the Rays sent all nine men in the lineup to the plate in the eighth inning. Evan Longoria singled to lead off a frame that seemed like it would never end. Longo came around to score on Carlos Penas double. Pena advanced to third on Joyces single and John Jaso walked to load the bases with no outs when. Sean Rodriguez singled to bring Pena and Joyce to the plate and crack the game wide open. Shoppach laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runners and Jason Bartlett launched a missile over the fabled Green Monster to punctuate an inning in which the Rays showed shades of the team that won 17 games in April.
The Red Sox made it clear they werent rolling over and dying anytime soon. Marco Scutaro and Eric Patterson both singled to start the bottom half of the eighth and chase Garza. Garza had thrown a hell of a game until that point, yielding one run on four hits; he was charged with two runs when David Ortiz smacked a double on reliever Randy Choates first and only pitch of the game. Ortiz scored on Adrian Beltres sacrifice fly to deep center to make it a 9-4 ballgame.
The Rays threatened again in the ninth, with Pena singling and Joyce driving a double off the center field wall after Longoria grounded out to start the frame. Jaso grounded into a fielders choice, which saw Pena cut down at the plate as he attempted to score. Sean Rodriguez popped out to end the inning, stranding two.
This was the first all-around solid game in I-dont-know-how-long. The bottom part of the order got it done big time, batting in seven of the nine runs scored on the strength of Rodriguezs two-for-five night with two RBI, Shoppachs double for two RBI, and Bartlett's three-run long ball. Despite the three runs, Garza pitched a great game, with dominating strikeouts, including two on hard-hitting Kevin Youkilis.
- Matt Joyce had a great game. Everyone wondering why we called this kid up got their answer Wednesday night as the Tampa native reached base on all five of his plate appearances. Joyce singled and doubled, walked twice, and was hit by a pitch in an evening that also saw some solid defensive work in right field.
The bats really came around today and hopefully we can get it going, he told man-on-the-scene Todd Kalas after the game.
- B.J. Upton sat the entire game this time, with Ben Zobrist starting in center field. Big Ben looked stellar, with several over-the-shoulder, highlight-reel catches on deep balls at crucial points in the game. He scored Shoppach on his single in the fourth inning and walked once. Without his play Wednesday night, I might be whining about yet another loss, and nobody wants to read that.
- Gabe Kapler saw his first action since returning from the DL. Kapler moved into Carl Crawfords spot in the lineup and played right field, shifting Joyce over to left. He did not appear at the plate.
Well we can't celebrate this one forever; unfortunately it's only one game, but the boys should march out of Fenway with their heads high. I cant wait to see how the Rays do against the Twins in the next four games. Minnesota leads the AL Central division with a 43-35 record. Rays right-hander Jeff Niemann (6-2, 2.72 ERA) will get the start against Carl Pavano (9-6, 3.33 ERA). After that they return home to Tropicana Field for three more against Boston and a four-game series against the Cleveland Indians before the All-Star break. Be sure to check back here Friday at CL Sports where Im sure to have something to say about it.