The Tampa bay Rays headed into Friday nights game against the Seattle Mariners - the first of an entire series without All-Star 3B Evan Longoria, out with strained quad - with a magic number of four: a combination of Rays wins or losses by the Boston Red Sox would clinch a spot in American League post-season play. Who to root for as the Red Sox faced the Yankees? More on that later.
Struggling starter Jeff Niemann took the hill for TBay, looking to improve on his 10-7 season. Niemann had a wonderful start to the year but went on the DL and has struggled since his return; headed into Friday nights game, he was winless in his previous five starts, failing to secure a W since August 3 against the Minnesota Twins.
Tampa Bay scored the first run in the second inning. Ben Zobrist led off with a well-hit double; he crossed the plate easily on a double by Kelly Shoppach. The Rays tacked on another in the bottom half of the next inning, again benefiting from a leadoff double, this one from B.J. Upton. Jason Bartlett got aboard with a walk after an extended at-bat against Seattle starter Jason Vargas; both runners advanced on a hit-and-run play when Carl Crawford grounded out to the second baseman. Willy Aybar brought Upton home with a sacrifice fly out to left field.
Seattle came back to tie the game in the fourth inning. Niemann pitched well until the fourth, allowing two hits in the first and putting up consecutive three-up, three-down innings to follow. Seattles Chone Figgins led off the top of the fourth with a base hit and then stole second; he went to third when Jose Lopez grounded out to short. Franklin Gutierrez singled to drive home Figgins; he then stole second when Justin Smoak struck out. Adam Moores base hit scored Gutierrez from second, but Niemann closed the frame by striking out Matt Please dont make me type this again Tulasosopo.