Sunday, December 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays win first of season at Fenway

BOSTON — Jose Molina provided the entertainment by racing home with the go-ahead run. Wil Myers produced some history with his first extra-base hit and RBIs.

But the most important development in Wednesday's 6-2 victory over the Red Sox — beyond the win itself, as rare as they've been for the Rays vs. Boston — was the performance of Jeremy Hellickson.

The inconsistent right-hander did his job quite well for six innings. Then manager Joe Maddon took him out before he could do anything wrong.

Having seen Hellickson blow several games with seemingly comfortable leads, and allow eight runs in a single frame in his last start, Maddon decided the six innings and 88 pitches — most of which were crisp and well-commanded — were enough, then used four relievers, including closer Fernando Rodney, to make sure Hellickson got his fifth win.

"That was part of it, absolutely," Maddon said. "That's how you deal with development on the minor-league level, too. You look for those moments where when that guy leaves the field he could only feel good about himself."

Hellickson, who scattered seven hits and posted his team record-tying fourth straight start (and 251/3 innings) without a walk, had no complaints.

"It was nice to actually finish a game on a good note," he said.

The Rays (37-35) felt good all around as they had lost their first five games this season in Boston, scoring five runs total with no more than two in any one, and nine of the first 11 overall to the first-place Red Sox (44-30), who haven't beaten them in a season series since 2007.

"We have to get back even with these guys or close to even," Maddon said. "They've had their way with us."

The Rays scored two in the first, including Desmond Jennings' ninth homer, then the Sox evened it, ex-Ray Jonny Gomes twice hitting shots too hot for third baseman Evan Longoria to handle to knock in runs.

That's where Molina's speed came in. On second after a single and a walk, the typically slow-moving catcher took off on Ben Zobrist's two-out single and raced — well, ran hard — home, sliding in ahead of the toss from weak-armed centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury.

"I just said that as soon as he hit the ball I've got to try to score, pretty much that's the way it was," Molina said. "I took my lead really good and gave everything I had — I guess it's not that much — but I give everything and to try to slide and avoid the tag and I did, and scored a big run for us. … I think I did one of those Matrix moves and he didn't tag me."

Said Maddon: "As he went by, the vortex almost like pulled me into his jet stream as he was running toward home plate, and eventually he was safe. I jumped out of the dugout, everything slowed down, slow motion, and the umpire went, 'Safe.' So it was a good play."

Myers, the prized prospect who debuted Tuesday, showed some of his five-tool skills in the seventh, lacing a ball to center and hustling to second for a two-run double. "He's on the right path," Maddon said.

Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]

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