Courtsey of TBO.com
Rays outlast rain delays, Indians for victory
CLEVELAND - Friday became Saturday. May became June. Rainy skies gave way to clear skies. And finally, the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cleveland Indians finished a baseball game that started late and ended way late.
The Rays won, 9-2, to extend their winning streak to six games, matching their longest of the season.
“I’m proud of the guys,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “That’s about as cool of a win as I’ve experienced in pro baseball.”
And, the teams meet again this afternoon. First pitch is scheduled for 1:05 p.m., which is a little more than 10 hours after Friday’s game ended.
The Rays also closed to within two games of the first-place Boston Red Sox in the American League East, the closest the Rays have been to the division lead since they were two games back on April 8.
“It was an awkward way to do this,” Maddon said of a game that ended just before 3 a.m. EDT. “But if you’re going to stick around this long you might as well win it.”
Matt Joyce and James Loney both hit two-run homers in the Rays’ five-run third inning and Jamey Wright pitched three-plus innings in relief for the victory.
“They were ready to play ball at midnight,” Maddon cracked.
Matt Moore, looking to become the major league’s first nine-game winner, had his start mostly washed out by the rain. He did pitch one inning, retiring all three batters he faced before the last of three delays.
It was after midnight by the time the Rays defense returned to the field, and when it did, Wright was on the mound.
It was not a great night to test the Rays bullpen since manager Joe Maddon said before the game that Fernando Rodney, Joel Peralta and Jake McGee were unavailable. He needed some long outings from his relievers, and he got that from Wright (three innings), Josh Lueke (two) and Cesar Ramos (three).
The three relievers combined with Moore for a one-hitter.
“Any time a starter goes one inning for one reason or another, somebody’s got to suck up those innings,” Wright said. “I got quick outs early and getting five runs the next inning was huge.”
Jeff Beliveau, recalled earlier in the day from Triple-A Durham to add a fresh arm to a tired bullpen, had a tough travel day due to the weather. He didn’t arrive until almost 10:30 p.m.
Lucky for him he didn’t miss much in the meantime. The night’s three rain delays totaled 4 hours, 49 minutes. The actual game time was 2:59.
The first was the 1:57 delay that pushed back the start of the game from 7:05 p.m. to 9:02 p.m. The teams played 16 minutes in which time eight batters came to the plate – five for the Rays, three for the Indians. All eight were retired.
That’s when the second rain delay occurred. It was relatively short – 13 minutes.
But when play resumed, it lasted all of three minutes, or just long enough for Luke Scott to draw a walk and Desmond Jennings to line out to second base.
The tarp was rolled back over the infield after Jennings was retired and everyone in the stadium hunkered down for what would be a 2 hour, 39 minute delay.
Indians fans watched the Tigers-Orioles and Reds-Pirates games on the video board in left field and feasted on dollar hotdogs that were reduced to 50 cents.
The postgame fireworks became a casualty of the late night.
Finally, at 12:13 a.m. the game resumed and Wright pitched a perfect bottom of the second.
“If you’re going to wait around until midnight you want to go out there and beat up on them,” Wright said. “I’m glad it worked out. We’re dead. A quick turnaround, we’ll find some energy for (today) and hopefully win the series (today).”
“Jamey Wright was the hero of the night,” Maddon said. “He allowed us to get on top. He set it all up and allowed us to parcel out the innings (among Lueke and Ramos).”
Lefty Scott Barnes replaced Indians starter Corey Kluber and began the third inning by retiring Jose Lobaton on a grounder. He got Yunel Escobar to hit a slow roller up the third-base line, but Indians third baseman Mark Reynolds hit Escobar with the throw and the Rays shortstop was credited with the first hit of the game.
Barnes struck out Ben Zobrist, but Joyce then gave the Rays a 2-0 lead with a homer to right field, just the seventh of his career off a left-hander. It was also just Zobrist’s third hit this season off a left-hander.
Kelly Johnson drew a walk, then Evan Longoria scored him with a double off the top of the wall in left-center field.
Loney followed, making it 5-0 with his seventh homer of the season. It was the first time since Aug. 12, 2011 that a pair of left-handed hitting Rays homered off a lefty in the same inning. Casey Kotchman and Johnny Damon did the trick that day against CC Sabathia at Yankee Stadium.
Wright, meanwhile, retired the first nine batters he faced before walking Nick Swisher to start the fifth inning – his fourth inning of work. Reynolds followed with a one-hop smash to third that Longoria got his glove on but couldn’t grab. The ball caromed to Escobar, who had plenty of time to get Swisher at second, but he held on to the ball.
Lueke replaced Wright and after getting two fly balls – the second a sacrifice fly to center to make it a 5-1 game – allowed the Indians their first hit of the night, a double off the top of the right field wall by Ryan Raburn that Joyce couldn’t catch. Reynolds scored to make it a 5-2 game.
But the Rays’ bat weren’t finished. Loney homered again in the eighth inning to extend the lead to 6-2, and the Rays added three more runs in the ninth on RBI singles by Escobar, Zobrist and Sam Fuld, who entered the game the inning before as a defensive replacement for Johnson in left field.
Ramos pitched the final three innings to earn the save.