The Games: The Tampa Bay Rays extended their winning streak to nine games following a sweep of split squad games on Thursday. The Rays defeated the Toronto Blue Jays 4-1 at Charlotte Sports Park while the other half of the squad held on to defeat the Pittsburgh Pirates 15-11 in a slugfest at McKechnie Field.
In the first game, Toronto broke the scoreless tie in the fifth inning. John McDonald singled to get things started. Joey Gathright later singled home McDonald to give the Blue Jays a 1-0 lead.
The Rays battled back to take the lead in the home half of the fifth inning. John Jaso delivered a solo home run to center field to tie the game. JJ Furmaniak then singled o center then later scored on a line drive by Jason Bartlett. Bartlett later scored on an RBI single by Evan Longoria to take a 3-1 lead.
The Rays added an insurance run in the seventh inning. Nevin Ashley singled to left to lead off the inning. Ashley then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Ashley later scored on an RBI double by Chris Richard to give the Rays the 4-1 margin of victory.
Andy Sonnanstine pitched 4 scoreless innings, allowing 1 hit while striking out 3 and walking 1. Dan Wheeler followed, earning the win by pitching an inning and allowing 1 run on 2 hits with a walk. Alex Torres pitched two shut-out innings allowing 1 hit while striking out 2 and walking 1. Jake McGee recorded the save with two innings on the mound allowing only 1 hit and striking out 2.
Meanwhile an hour north, the remainder of the Rays squad were taking on the Pirates in an 16-15 slugfest featuring high winds and lots of home runs.
The Pirates wasted no time in striking the scoreboard. Lastings Milledge got things going with a single to center. Ryan Doumit and Jeff Clement followed with back to back walks to load the bases. Andy LaRoche double to center to clear the bases and plate three runs. Ronny Cedeno then followed with a two run homer to give the Pirates a 5 run lead.
The Rays battled back to tie the game in the second inning. Pat Burrell, Dioner Navarro and Kelly Shoppach loaded the bases by each earning walks. Reid Brignac followed with a two run double. Elliot Johnson then struck a sac fly to score Shoppach. Brignac and Johnson later scored on a two run single by Sean Rodriguez to tie the game 5-5.
Pittsburgh regained the lead in the bottom of the third inning. Milledge singled to third to get things started. Milledge advanced to second on a wild pitch and then to third on a passed ball. Clement drove home the run with a ground ball to second, giving the Pirates a 6-5 lead.
Tampa Bay used the long ball to regain the lead in the fifth inning. Carl Crawford homered to tie the game. Burrell later went deep to give the Rays the lead. Dan Johnson then double to center. Johnson then scored on an RBI single by Brignac giving the Rays a 8-6 lead.
The Pirates added another run in the bottom half of the fifth. Jose Tabata tripled to center to lead off the inning. Milledge drove home Tabata with a ground ball to bring the Pirates to within a run of the lead.
Pittsburgh tied the game in the sixth inning by once again leading off the inning with a triple. This time John Raynor struck the triple to center field. Raynor then scored on a ground ball by Delwyn Young to tie the game 8-8.
The Rays took back the lead in the seventh inning. Ryan Shealy led off the inning with a walk. Jose Lobaton then singled to advance Shealy to second. Dan Johnson drew another walk to load the bases for the Rays. Emeel Salem drove home the go ahead run with a sac fly to score Shealy. Elliott Johnson then singled to left to score Lobaton. Chris De La Cruz followed with a two run double to score Johnson and Johnson. Justin Ruggiano cleared the bases with a home run. One batter later, Angel Chavez went yard to give the Rays a 15-8 lead.
The Pirates picked up a run in the bottom of the seventh on a two run home run by Neil Walker. Then again in the eight on a solo home run by Delwyn Young. The Pirates trailed the Rays 15-11.
The Rays posted another run to the scoreboard in the ninth inning. Salem opened up the inning with a single center. Salem moved through the bases on back to back ground outs before scoring on a line drive single by Ruggiano to increase the lead to 16-11.
The Pirates tried to mount a comeback in the bottom of the ninth inning. Clement reached base on an interference call to lead off the inning. Walker then singled to left followed by a walk to Doug Bernier to load the bases. Luke Carlin drove home the first run of the inning on a single to left, scoring Clement. Young followed with a two run single to center. Carlin then scored on an RBI single by Gorkys Hernandez. But the Rays managed to get the remaining two outs to stop the rally one run short and take the 16-15 win.
Wade Davis surrendered five runs on 3 hits with 2 strikeouts and 3 walks in 2 inning with the start. Jeff Bennett followed allowing 2 runs on 3 hits with 2 strikeouts and a walk in 2 2/3 innings. Mike Ekstrom then pitched 1 1/3 inning, allowing 1 run on 2 hits with a strikeout and 2 walks, recording a bad save and earning the victory. Richard De Los Santos gave up 3 runs on 2 hits with 2 strikeout and a walk in 1 2/3 inning. Heath Rollins completed the final 1 1/3 innings allowing 4 runs on 5 hits with a strikeout and a walk.
RP Top Prospect Watch:
Tim Beckham: 0 for 1 with a walk.
Wade Davis: 5 runs, 3 hits, 2 K’s and 3 walks in 2 innings.
John Jaso: 1 for 2 with a solo home run.
Jake McGee: 0 runs, 1 hit, 2 K’s in 2 innings while recording the save.
Shawn O’Malley: 0 for 1.
Alex Torres: 0 runs, 1 hit, 2 K’s and 1 walk in 2 innings.
A Look Ahead: The Rays (9-1) take on the Philadelphia Phillies on Friday at Charlotte Sports Park. James Shield is scheduled to make the start for the Rays.