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Longoria saves Rays from squandering another big lead

Longoria saves Rays from squandering another big lead

by Steve Carney

Large leads have not been beneficial for Jeremy Hellickson.

The right-hander gave up a four-run seventh-inning lead thanks to a pinch-hit grand slam from Jesus Guzman, but Evan Longoria hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning off Huston Street to give the Tampa Bay Rays an 8-7 win Saturday at Tropicana Field.

Street retired Matt Joyce and Kelly Johnson on fly balls, and was ahead of Ben Zobrist 0-2, but eventually allowed him to reach on a walk before Longoria stepped to the plate and blasted a slider into the Captain Morgan deck beyond the left-centerfield fence to end the game.

Hellickson gave up a two-run homer in the first inning to Chase Headley, but settled down, retiring 16 straight Padres hitters at one point.  However, he walked Carlos Quentin to lead off the seventh.  After striking out Yonder Alonso, he allowed a base hit to Mark Kotsay, and two batters later, an infield single by Alexi Amarista loaded the bases.

Bud Black brought in Guzman to pinch-hit for Scott Baker, and he launched a 3-2 pitch into the seats in left for a grand slam to tie the game.

Joe Maddon went to Wright to relieve Hellickson, and Everth Cabrera reached on a throwing error by Ben Zobrist.  Wright then hit Will Venable and walked Headley before Quentin received his second free pass of the inning, which brought in the go-ahead run.

After going in order against rookie Burch Smith in the first inning, Tampa Bay hitters broke out in the second.  Evan Longoria walked in front of James Loney, who launched a gargantuan home run to right that tied the game.

Luke Scott then walked, and Sam Fuld and Jose Lobaton singled to load the bases.  Yunel Escobar then singled off Headley's glove into left field to bring home Scott and Fuld for a 4-2 game.  Joyce then ended Smith's night with an RBI double that scored Lobaton.

A fly ball by Johnson off Tyson Ross scored Escobar to make it 6-2.

Cesar Ramos threw the final 2 1/3 innings of perfect relief to pick up his first win of the year.

The Rays can clinch a series sweep with a win in Sunday's finale.  Roberto Hernandez (1-4, 5.66 ERA) will take on Eric Stults (3-2, 4.50 ERA).  Coverage on 620 WDAE and 95.3 FM starts at 11:30 with Suncoast Hyundai Dealers Inside Pitch.  First pitch is scheduled for 1:40.

 

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