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BOS@TB: Hellickson improves to 4-0 with solid outing

ST. PETERSBURG -- Manager Joe Maddon has often said his club plays its best in stormy weather. Wednesday night at Tropicana Field personified their skipper's sentiments as the Rays took a 2-1 win over the Red Sox with 20,843 watching.

The Rays have now won four in a row to move to 24-14 on the season.

"It's pouring right now," Maddon said. "But we've got the umbrellas up, we're doing OK."

Rain pelted the outside of Tropicana Field prior to the game, while the stormy weather inside saw the Rays add Brandon Guyer to the 15-day disabled list, which now contains nine players, and then hold their breath when Will Rhymes was hit by a pitch in the eighth inning.

With pinch-runner Rich Thompson on third, Rhymes was plunked on the right forearm by a 95-mph fastball from Franklin Morales. After being examined by the trainers, Rhymes walked to first base, but while standing on the bag, the second baseman pointed to his chest and motioned to the dugout saying he needed to come out. As Rhymes walked off the field, he collapsed into the arms of first-base coach George Hendrick.

A hushed crowd watched as Rhymes stayed prone on the field and was surrounded by the team's medical and coaching staff. He regained consciousness, and after a few minutes, he was taken off the field on a cart.

Maddon said Rhymes was fine after his fainting spell, which was atttributed to an adrenaline rush, and after X-rays his arm has been classified as badly bruised. The episode seemed to mirror what's been going on for the Rays lately. Despite all the adversity, Tampa Bay continues to surge forward, taking whatever offense is available and pitching like crazy.

Wednesday night's offense consisted of a balk that allowed Carlos Pena to score from third in the second -- on a night when the Red Sox balked three times -- and Matt Joyce's daring sprint for the plate on Luke Scott's shallow fly ball to Red Sox right-fielder Cody Ross in the sixth.

Joyce scored on the latter, minting what turned out to be the winning run.

"Well, as I saw the play developing, the ball was up in the air and obviously it was short," Joyce said. "I wasn't really planning on going until I saw Cody Ross kind of backpedal. The Trop can be tough sometimes for outfielders and infielders the same. It's hard to see the ball when you're not used to it.

"He started backpedaling, and as an outfielder, I know it's hard to get a lot on your throw and make a really good throw when you're on the heels of your feet. I took a shot and it worked out."

Ross explained that he had been playing pretty deep. When he charged in after the ball he gave Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia a glance.

"And when I looked back up, I lost it a little bit and gathered it and then tried to break my stride down and kind of tripped over myself and had to reach back and grab it," Ross said. "Just a lot of stuff going on on that play. It was awful.

"I lost my footing. I almost rolled my ankle. I felt like, when I was breaking my steps down and just kind of pushed forward and had to reach back. It ended up costing us the game."

Jeremy Hellickson started for the Rays and held the Red Sox to one run on five hits in six innings, lowering his ERA to 2.77 while moving to 4-0 on the season. He is the first Rookie of the Year to go 4-0 as a starter the year after winning the award. The right-hander has now won a career-high six consecutive decisions; he has not lost a game since Aug. 30 at Texas.

The Rays' bullpen then took over. Jake McGee pitched a scoreless seventh and Joel Peralta retired Pedroia, David Ortiz and Adrian Gonzalez in order in the eighth.

When Peralta entered the game, he flashed back to the last time he relieved Hellickson, Friday night in Baltimore. Peralta surrendered a game-winning homer to Nick Johnson that cost the Rays the game and Hellickson the win.

"The last time I came in for a game for Hellickson, I blew it," Peralta said. "I blew his outing, I lost the game, the team lost the game. So tonight was more about I've got to do it for him and the team."

Fernando Rodney followed Peralta, pitching a scoreless ninth to earn his 12th save.

Despite all their misfortune, the Rays seem to tap into some reserve of magic every night. Already the inevitable comparisons to 2008 are mounting. Fans will long remember the way their team lost Evan Longoria and Carl Crawford to injury, but continued to chug along to capture the AL pennant.

"It's very reminiscent of that," said Maddon, who is always willing to fan the flames of karma. "It is. The thing you just keep your eye on is the whole group -- and the whole group comes with a lot of energy every day."

Of course, even fairy tales must have some sort of backbone, a fact of which Maddon is well aware.

"We can't do this if we don't pitch well," Maddon said. "And also play defense -- and we haven't played up to our standards [on defense]. I'd say the part that has pretty much held its serve is the pitching."

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