The Game: The Tampa Bay Rays picked up their first win of the spring by defeating the Baltimore Orioles 6-5 on Thursday in the home opener at Charlotte Sports Park. The win came in walk off fashion when Matt Joyce drove home the winning run in the ninth inning.
The Orioles struck early as Felix Pie went deep in the first at-bat of the game. Jeff Niemann recovered and retired the next three batters as the Orioles took a 1-0 lead.
The Rays battled back to take the lead in the bottom of the second inning. Carlos Pena reached on an error to lead off the inning. Then Sean Rodriguez delivered his second home run of the spring with a two run blast to right that gave the Rays a 2-1 lead.
Tampa Bay added a run to their total in the fourth inning. Evan Longoria lead off the inning with a double to right. Longoria later scored on an RBI double by Pat Burrell to increase the lead to 3-1.
Baltimore pulled closer in the fifth by adding two runs to the scoreboard. Matt Angle got things started with a single to the mound. Angle then moved into scoring position with a stolen base. Robert Andino followed with a single to short. Then Lou Montanez struck a 2 run double to right, scoring both runners and pulling the O’s within one run of the lead.
The Rays scored again in the bottom half of the fifth to add a little separation. Matt Joyce drew a walk to lead off the inning. Joyce the stole second and later scored on an RBI single by Justin Ruggiano to give Tampa Bay a 5-3 lead.
Baltimore pulled closer in the seventh. Matt Angle led off with a walk and then moved into scoring position with his second stolen base of the game, Miguel Abreu then tripled to right to score Angle. The Orioles later tied the game on a solo home run by Justin Turner to tie the contest at 5-5.
But the Rays pulled off the win in the bottom of the ninth inning. Eliot Johnson tripled to center to lead off the inning. Dan Johnson then draws a walk to put runners on the corners. JJ Furmaniak was then issued an intentional pass to load the bases for the Rays with one out. That’s when Matt Joyce struck the game winning RBI single to right that scored Johnson and gave the Rays a 6-5 walk-off victory.
Jeff Niemann went 2 innings allowing a run on 1 hit. Joaquin Benoit and Dan Wheeler followed with a shut-out inning a piece with each allowing 1 hit. Grant Balfour was hit around a bit allowing 2 runs on 3 hits with a strikeout. Lance Cormier followed with 1 run on 2 hits with 3 strikeouts in 2 innings on the mound. Jack McGee pitched a no hit inning in the eighth by striking out 2 of the 3 batters he faced. Alex Torres earned the victory, allowing 1 run on 1 hit with a strikeout and a walk to end the game.
RP Top Prospect Watch:
Tim Beckham: pinch ran.
Reid Brignac: 1 for 2 with an RBI.
Jake McGee: pitched a perfect inning in relief striking out 2 of the 3 batters faced.
Alex Torres: surrendered 1 run on 1 hit with a strikeout and a walk in earning the win.
A Look Ahead: The Rays (1-1) travel to Steinbrenner Field to take on the New York Yankees on Friday. David Price (0-0) is scheduled to start against Phil Hughes for New York. Heath Rollins, Mike Ekstrom, Jeff Bennett, Jeremy Hellickson, Carlos Hernandez and RJ Swindle are also scheduled to pitch for Tampa Bay.