Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rays get 12th win in 13 games

TORONTO — As the Rays resumed play after the All-Star break, manager Joe Maddon introduced a strategy designed to preserve reliever Joel Peralta for later in the season, and potentially postseason, by using him a bit less now.

But two days in, that plan seems quite flawed.

In both games, the replacement reliever who started the eighth inning failed to get an out, putting Peralta in an even more taxing situation.

But what hasn't changed is Peralta's remarkable ability to handle whatever the Rays need, showcased again Saturday when he worked out of a bases-loaded, no-out mess at the most critical juncture of their 4-3 win over Blue Jays.

"What I've been trying to do is make it easier for him, and I'm just making it more difficult, and what he does right there is spectacular," Maddon said. "It was Houdini-esque."

The win was the sizzling Rays' 12th in their past 13 games and 19th in 23 as they improved to 57-41 and move to within 1½ games of the first-place Red Sox in the American League East.

They struck for early runs, two delivered by rookie Wil Myers; got five innings from starter Jeremy Hellickson, who was battling light-headedness as one of a half-dozen ill players; and finished with exciting relief work on a smoking-hot, roof-open day.

"The tenacity of the group is obvious," Maddon said. "I can't say enough."

Hellickson left with a 4-2 lead that Alex Torres took to the eighth, Maddon wanting the young lefty to face right-handed sluggers Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion — and maybe Adam Lind to finish the inning — before having to turn to Peralta.

But Torres pitched too cautiously, walking Bautista and Encarnacion. And there was Peralta, 37, heading to the mound for his AL-most 51st appearance, in an even more difficult spot, with the go-ahead run at the plate.

"I think they try to give me a rest, but it's not working right now," he said. "I don't know. It's kind of backward. I'm getting in there and throwing more pitches."

Peralta at first made it more of a mess, falling behind Lind 3-and-0, then walking him on a full count.

And with the bases loaded, no outs and a game his teammates had battled to win in the balance, Peralta — equal parts ability and guile — proved once again how valuable he is.

He got Colby Rasmus on a foul pop-up. He got Maicer Izturis to look at strike three.

And then after going to a full count, and after a foul ball, with a crowd of 42,639 in full roar, he got J.P. Arencibia to swing and miss at a nasty split-finger.

"He lives on the edges, keeps you off-balance, throws anything at any time. He keeps it out of the middle," Jays manager John Gibbons said. "He's nails under pressure. He doesn't give you anything."

There was nervousness on the Rays' bench at the time but plenty of praise afterward for Peralta. Fernando Rodney — who had drama of his own in the ninth — took it to a new level.

"Joel is all Joel," Rodney said. "He's like Manny (Ramirez); he does all kinds of stuff to win the game."

It wasn't quite won yet. Rodney walked the No. 9 hitter with one out in the ninth, then allowed a two-out single to Bautista, bringing Encarnacion to the plate with a chance to win it.

Instead, Encarnacion hit a grounder back at the mound that Rodney saw all the way until it bounced — and Rodney played it absolutely horribly, his glove on top of the ball rather than trying to scoop it, allowing a run to score. But Rodney regrouped, retiring Lind on a flyout to end it, then mockingly tossing the glove away.

Certainly, as Maddon said, it was a team win. But it was Peralta who, not necessarily by design, played the biggest role.

And he felt pretty good about it, ranking it among his most impressive escape acts.

"Today was really big," Peralta said. "I've probably had some of those before, but as important as this game is right now, we're in second place a couple of games behind Boston, so this is on top."

Marc Topkin can be reached at

23 skidoo

The Rays' 19-4 run matches their best stretch of 23 games. Since June 23 they have …

. Gained 41/2 games on the Red Sox and moved from last place to second in the American League East.

. Pitched to a major-league-best 2.15 ERA, lowering their overall ERA from 4.34 (28th in the majors) to 3.81 (12th), allowing only a .202 average.

. Made only four errors, fewest in the majors.

. Hit .275 as a team (seventh best in the majors), posted a .348 on-base percentage (third best) and averaged 4.57 runs a game (13th), led by Luke Scott (.339), James Loney (.373) and Wil Myers (.318).

Marc Topkin, Times staff writer

Rays get 12th win in 13 games 07/20/13 [Last modified: Saturday, July 20, 2013 11:07pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Joe Maddon gets warm reception in return to the Trop

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The night was arranged to honor former Rays manager Joe Maddon in his first visit back to the Trop, and the standing ovation from the bipartisan crowd and scoreboard video tribute seemed proper acknowledgments of his hefty role in the Rays' success during his nine-year stint.

    Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon (70) talks with reporters during a press conference before the start of the game between the Chicago Cubs and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017.
  2. Rays vs. Cubs, 7:10 p.m. Wednesday, Tropicana Field

    The Heater

    Tonight: vs. Cubs

    7:10, Tropicana Field

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM; 680-AM (Spanish)

    Tampa Bay Rays' Blake Snell poses for a picture during the team's photo day at baseball spring training in Port Charlotte, Fla., Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017. (AP Photo/David Goldman)
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Cubs game

    The Heater

    Chris Archer's night ended with his 11th loss, but he and the Rays should feel good about his six solid innings. After the forearm tightness scare in Chicago, he had two rough outings (15 hits, 11 runs, seven innings), so Tuesday was a reassuring rebound.

  4. At 6-8, Lightning prospect Oleg Sosunov comes with, and needs, a high ceiling

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — When Hall of Famer Phil Esposito first saw Lightning prospect Oleg Sosunov, he joked that the 6-foot-8 defenseman could reach the Amalie Arena ceiling.

    Lightning 6-foot-8 defenseman Oleg Sosunov competes in the preseason opener. Phil Esposito jokes that Sosunov can reach the ceiling at Amalie Arena.
  5. Jones: Rays' Kevin Cash doesn't mind following in Joe Maddon's steps

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — On this particular night, he's the other guy. He's like a talk-show guest scooted to the end of the couch. He is Kevin Cash. And the Rays manager is standing in the home dugout at Tropicana Field.

    ST. PETERSBURG, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Manager Kevin Cash (L) of the Tampa Bay Rays reacts to action during the game against the Boston Red Sox at Tropicana Field on September 17, 2017 in St. Petersburg, Florida. (Photo by Joseph Garnett Jr./Getty Images) 700012494