video thumbnail

LAA@TB: Hellickson strong over six innings of work

ST. PETERSBURG -- Ben Zobrist and Jeremy Hellickson did what they do Wednesday night -- Zobrist with a big home run and Hellickson with a gutty quality start.

In between were the little moments that came up big in the Rays' 3-2 win over the Angels at Tropicana Field with 14,638 watching.

By winning, the Rays moved to 11-7 on the season while winning for the sixth time in their last seven games, clinching their third consecutive series in the process.

Chris Gimenez and Brandon Allen served as the poster children for little things adding up to a big payoff.

Gimenez, whom the Rays selected from Triple-A Durham on April 15, didn't let his hitting get in the way of his catching. Yes, he struck out three times against Angels starter C.J. Wilson, who fanned 11 in seven innings, but he also threw out two would-be basestealers, one of them coming in the fifth on a strike-em-out, throw-em-out double play.

"That was huge," Hellickson said. "Gimenez was huge back there the whole game."

Rays manager Joe Maddon added: "I can look through those three strikeouts and understand he had a great game. He had a great game tonight. Not just a good game, a great game. The pitch calling I thought was fantastic. The blocking of the ball. The couple of throws he made were big. The strike-em-out, throw-em-out was a huge part of that game."

Allen's heroics came when he pinch-hit for Gimenez with two outs and the bases loaded in the bottom of the eighth.

Allen joined the Rays on Saturday after he was claimed off waivers from the A's on Thursday. Normally, Maddon likes to get his players "wet," or into games, quickly after joining the team. But Allen had not yet been used in the three games entering Wednesday night's contest against the Angels. Perhaps most significant was the fact he had not had an at-bat in a game since April 7.

The Rays clung to a precarious 2-1 lead and needed at least one "jugs" run -- Maddon vernacular for add-on runs that go for the other team's jugular vein.

Former Rays reliever Jason Isringhausen was on the mound for the Angels when Allen stepped to the plate.

"I had to calm myself down every pitch," Allen said. "But I'd been in the cage with [hitting coach Derek Shelton]. And, you know, just getting in a lot of flips, a lot of batting practice. Those guys took time with me and helped me out in the cage so far. It wasn't that uncomfortable of an at-bat, but I had some feelings going through me."

Allen worked the count to 3-2 before taking ball four to force home the Rays' third run for a 3-1 lead.

"Brandon Allen had a fantastic at-bat for us," Zobrist said. "That's exactly what you want to see in that situation. You don't want to go into the ninth with a one-run lead and that was big at-bat, a game-winning at-bat, really."

That extra run proved to be crucial when second baseman Zobrist booted Erick Aybar's two-out ground ball in the top of the ninth that would have ended the game. Instead, Torii Hunter scored on the play to cut the Rays' lead to 3-2.

Fernando Rodney did not panic. Instead, the Rays closer calmly used his next pitch to retire Alberto Callaspo on a fly to left to earn his sixth save of the season, effectively getting Zobrist off the hook.

"Very glad, definitely," Zobrist said. "You never want to make an error in the ninth inning when the game is on the line. So it was just a tough one. I haven't spent much time in the infield yet, I'm still getting comfortable and whatnot, just happy that our bullpen was phenomenal the whole way through. Helly was great and with the exception of that one play, our defense was great. It was just a good team win."

Angels manager Mike Scioscia pointed to the little things when assessing the difference in Wednesday night's game.

"When you're playing close games, because we've pitched better, those little things are really going to count and we didn't get it done tonight," Scioscia said. "And [Tampa Bay] did enough to pull it out."

Zobrist's home run came with one out in the third against Wilson. The blast followed an odd trend from the previous two games in which all of the Rays' 11 runs had been scored via home runs or sacrifice flies. That streak ended one out after Zobrist's home run when Jeff Keppinger added a two-out double that drove home Carlos Pena to give the Rays a 2-0 lead.

Vernon Wells cut into the Rays' lead in the fourth with a homer off Hellickson. Wells' 10th career home run at Tropicana Field snapped a 55 1/3-inning stretch in which the Rays staff had not surrendered a home run.

Wells' home run proved to be the only scoring the Angels could mount against Hellickson, who earned his third win and second quality start of the season, with five hits and two walks allowed over six innings.

Wade Davis and Joel Peralta each pitched an inning of scoreless relief leading up to Rodney's work in the ninth.

MLB.com Comments