The Tampa Bay Rays avoided dubious major league history by ending
their consecutive shutout streak at three games on Wednesday night
at Tropicana Field, downing the St. Louis Cardinals 6-3.
All it required was Matt Joyce ending an 0-for-21 team and 0-for-11
personal drought with runners in scoring position, the Cardinals
losing a 30-inning scoreless run, one of the most acrobatic catches
in Rays history and a seven-out save from a closer who had recently
been removed from the role.
It was an odd collection of variables, just like the ones that had
all but sunk the Rays' season in the previous 15 games.
Tampa Bay, which has lost 14 of 16, improved to 25-42 and halted a
four-game losing streak. St. Louis (34-32) had a three-game win
streak snapped in the finale of the two-game series.
"This is more typical of what you would expect (from the Rays),"
Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "I would like to think you would
feel some contagion going forward."
Center fielder Desmond Jennings knocked in the eventual game-winner
in a decisive fourth inning and third baseman Evan Longoria and
first baseman James Loney added RBIs in a two-run seventh.
But the game was distilled down to two key moments: Joyce's two-run
single to give the Rays their first runs in 31 innings, and rookie
right fielder Kevin Kiermaier's circus catch to preserve their first
lead in 36 innings in the top of the next inning.
"That pretty much permitted us to win that game," Maddon said of the
Tampa Bay scored four runs with four hits in the fourth to avoid
being shut out an MLB-record four straight games.
Loney and second baseman Ben Zobrist began the rally with one-out
flare singles. Cardinals right-hander Michael Wacha appeared close
to an escape when designated hitter David DeJesus flied out. But
Joyce, batting just .250 with runners in scoring position, ripped a
single to center, scoring Loney and then Zobrist as center fielder
Peter Bourjos muffed the ball.
"That's just a great feeling to kick-start the party," Joyce said.
"I can be frustrating at times, but you can't really force anything
to happen. The game isn't designed that way."
Shortstop Yunel Escobar and catcher Ryan Hanigan walked before
Jennings banged a two-run single to center, giving the Rays their
first lead in 36 innings.
Wacha (4-5) took the loss after allowing a season-high four runs and
four hits with four walks in five innings.
"I just wasn't very good at all, just way too many walks and giving
up hits in critical spots," he said.
Rays reliever Juan Carlos Oviedo (2-2) was credited with the win
after walking one and striking out two in the sixth.
Grant Balfour, recently deposed as Tampa Bay's closer when his ERA
ballooned to 6.29, worked 2 1/3 scoreless innings for his 10th save.
Kiermaier saved the lead in the top of the fifth, leaping to snag
Bourjos' bases-loaded gapper for the third out.
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"When you hit the ball on the screws to the right-center field gap
and the guy makes a Superman play, there's only so much you can do
about that," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said.
With Bourjos down two strikes, Kiermaier had adjusted a few feet
toward the line, he said, because Bourjos had been late on pitches
from reliever Brad Boxberger. Kiermaier momentarily lost the ball in
the lights before recovering to snare it in full extension, then
tumbled awkwardly to the artificial turf.
Maddon said the catch had an "uplifting effect" on the besieged
"Those lights are tricky," Kiermaier said. "I lost it for a split
second and I knew I was going to have to lay out for it. I saw it
just in time to know where it was going."
For the first time in weeks, it's going in the right direction for
Catcher Yadier Molina's two-out, two-run single gave St. Louis a 2-0
edge in the third inning. Rays starter Erik Bedard retired two
straight batters after allowing a leadoff single to third baseman
Matt Carpenter, but first baseman Allen Craig pulled a double into
the right-field corner to prolong the inning. Molina then sprayed a
single to right, scoring Carpenter, and Craig deftly avoided the tag
of Hanigan on Kiermaier's throw to the plate.
St. Louis improved the lead to 3-0 in the fourth on Carpenter's RBI
single to right.
Bedard left after the fourth inning, having given up three runs,
eight hits and a walk with four strikeouts.
NOTES: RHP Adam Wainwright (9-3, 2.15 ERA) had a cortisone shot on
Wednesday in his elbow, but an MRI conducted in St. Louis revealed
no damage to the ulnar collateral ligament replaced in a 2011 Tommy
John surgery. ... Rays RHP Jeremy Hellickson (elbow surgery) is
scheduled to make a rehab start for Triple-A Durham on Thursday in
Indianapolis. ... The Rays reached a dreaded plateau in losing for
the 14th time in their last 15 games on Tuesday night. No MLB team
has come from as much as 18 games below .500 to qualify for the
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