The Los Angeles Dodgers hope to make it easier on themselves Saturday afternoon as they tangle with the Tampa Bay Rays in the second of a three-game set at Dodger Stadium.
Last night in the opener the Dodgers, now 5 1/2 games ahead of Arizona for the top spot in the National League West, found themselves trailing by a 6-0 margin heading into the home half of the seventh inning, which is when their bats finally showed signs of life. Skip Schumaker got the ball rolling with a double to left that scored Jerry Hairston.
In the next frame Yasiel Puig registered ground-rule double to right that scored Mark Ellis. Puig eventually came around to score himself on a Juan Uribe single.
Still down by three heading into the bottom of the ninth, the Dodgers completed their improbable comeback when Fernando Rodney's throwing error allowed Adrian Gonzalez to score the game-winner for the 7-6 triumph. Prior to Gonzalez coming around, Schumaker, Ellis and Nick Punto all crossed the plate as well in the team's third straight win and the eighth in the last nine outings overall.
"I thought something was going on here for the last three weeks," said Punto as he finished with two hits. "It was incredible. The crowd was incredible. I think the fans are feeling what we've been feeling for a month inside the clubhouse. Now that the fans are getting involved, I was standing on second base in the ninth inning and was deafened. There's a lot of excitement in this clubhouse and in L.A., and for good reason."
Ellis logged three hits for the home team, Puig two more as the latter extended his hit streak to eight straight games.
Chris Capuano made the start for the Dodgers, but lasted only 4 1/3 innings after being shelled for five earned runs on 10 hits, striking out three. Eventually, it was Ronald Belisario who captured the win for the hosts, pitching a perfect ninth in order to give LA a chance in the bottom of the inning.
David Price gave up just a single run -- unearned -- on seven hits and a walk. The Tampa Bay starter struck out four before exiting following seven innings of work. Rodney threw a total of 21 pitches in the final inning, registering only a single out while being charged with three runs.
"We will throw this one in the wastebasket as soon as possible and come back ready to play (Saturday)," Rays manager Joe Maddon tweeted.
Despite the loss, the team's third in a row, the Rays are still just two games behind Boston for first place in the American League East.
In search of his second straight win and the third in the last four decisions, Roberto Hernandez is scheduled to make the start for the Rays this afternoon. The right-hander has spent his entire eight-year career in the American League, the first seven years with the Cleveland Indians, so it should not come as a surprise that this is the first-ever meeting between Hernandez and the Dodgers.
However, this is the third straight outing for Hernandez against a club from the National League, the first being a complete-game victory on July 30 versus Arizona and the other a clash with San Francisco last weekend at home.
Versus the Giants, Hernandez lasted only 4 2/3 innings, giving up three runs on eight hits, walking one and striking out a pair. While the hurler failed to figure into the decision, the Rays still scrapped by with the 4-3 triumph.
Stepping to the hill today for the hosts will be Zack Greinke, a pitcher who has had plenty of exposure to Tampa Bay after spending the first seven seasons of his career with the Kansas City Royals.
The right-hander has recorded six wins in his last seven decisions, the most recent of those victories coming on Monday against St. Louis on the road in a narrow 3-2 final. The Florida native allowed just two runs on eight hits and a walk, fanning four, through 6 1/3 innings as the Dodgers continued their impressive run away from home.
While Greinke has faced off against Tampa Bay a total of 14 times in his career, with 11 starts, he has a personal record of just 2-6 with a 3.70 ERA in those encounters.
This is the first series between the clubs since 2007 when the Rays captured two of three at home. Prior to that it was the Dodgers who won a pair in three tries in Florida back in 2002.