Rays manager Joe Maddon had a hunch that scheduled batter Sean Rodriguez may struggle in a matchup with reliever Burke Badenhop, so he called back his veteran and sent up rookie Cole Figueroa, who had only one career hit coming in. The move paid off beautifully as Figueroa collected his second hit and his first career RBI on a game-ending RBI double. The hit gave the Rays a much needed 1-0 victory and sent the Red Sox to their eighth consecutive loss.
''It was kind of last minute,'' said Figueroa, who was told by bench coach Dave Martinez about the upcoming at-bat. ''Davey came over and said 'If the righty comes in, we're going to pinch hit, and you're going to go up and win the game for us.''
Martinez was right on the money and the Rays were walkoff winners for the second straight day. On Thursday, the same Sean Rodriguez who was pinch-hit for on Friday delivered a three-run homer in the 11th inning to beat the Oakland A's. Prior to that, the usually dramatic Rays had not won a game in walkoff fashion this season, so perhaps they're finally hitting their stride.
Rays reliever Juan Carlos Oviedo earned the victory with a scoreless ninth. It was his first victory since Aug. 1, 2011 with Miami when he was pitching under the name of Leo Nunez. Starting pitcher Chris Archer probably deserved it more. He struck out 11, walked four and allowed four hits over six scoreless innings.
KERSHAW OVERCOMES RAIN AND PHILLIES: Only Mother Nature could slow down Clayton Kershaw's roll on Friday night, but even that was only temporary. A 43-minute rain delay interupted play after the Dodgers left-hander put in three hitless innings. When he returned to the hill, he walked Carlos Ruiz and allowed a ringing double to Chase Utley to start the fourth, but he quickly shut down the inning and regained full command. Kershaw finished with six scoreless innings and allowed only two hits as the Dodgers backstroked to a 2-0 victory.
Helping Kershaw's cause was Yasiel Puig, who reached base in all five plate appearances (three singles and two walks). He's now reached safely in 24 consecutive games. Over that time, his on-base percentage is a remarkable .504.
DUNN FINISHES YANKEES WITH WALKOFF HOMER: A good back-and-forth battle at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago was settled on the final swing of the evening. White Sox slugger Adam Dunn cracked his 10th career walk-off home run, a two-run shot off Yankees closer David Robertson, which gave Chicago a thrilling 6-5 victory and nearly sent Hawk Harrelson off the deep end. Or maybe the deeper end.
''That's the best feeling in all of sports, especially after a night like tonight,'' Dunn said. ''Long game, I know everyone's tired on both sides.''
Though the game was wrapped up in nine innings, it took three hours and 52 minutes to complete. That's definitely a long night, but it had to feel even longer to New York.
After the Yankees jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first inning on Brian McCann's three-run homer, the two sides would go on to trade the lead three times over the final five innings. New York reclaimed the lead in the seventh inning on a bases loaded wild pitch and a Jacoby Ellsbury sacrifice fly. Chicago's first lead came in the fifth inning on Alexei Ramirez's two-run homer.
BREWERS PREVAIL IN MIAMI HOME RUN DERBY: The baseball was flying at Marlins Park in Miami like it never has before. That's no joke, either. The Marlins and visiting Brewers combined to hit seven home runs, which set a new stadium record. Miami had the edge in the homer count thanks to two-homer games from Giancarlo Stanton and Garrett Jones, but the Brewers won the game 9-5 thanks to a pair of two-run homers from Mark Reynolds and solo shot from Khris Davis. Carlos Gomez added four hits, including three doubles.
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