SP Jeff Niemann is finally showing what all the hype surrounding him since being drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays is about. Niemann pitched a gem against eh Chicago White Sox in game 2 of the 4 game set to even the series. Niemann went 8 VERY strong innings scattering 8 hits, allowing 2 ER while striking out 7 and allowing 0 free passes. Niemann’s curve ball was brutal tonight. That thing looked like a strike over the heart of the plate then just fell right off the plane. It was awesome to watch! Great to see Jeff pitching this well, with 9 wins he leads the Ray staff.
Another impressive pitching performance also turned in by RP JP Howell who has been used as a closer as of late. He saved all 3 games in Kansas City and come in with a 1 run lead in the 9th to attempt the save for Niemann. After giving up a lead off single JP struck out the next 2 and turned a 1-3 for the final out. JP looks really comfortable in this “closer” role!
The offense was a bit anemic totaling only 6 hits. BUT they hit when it counted. It began in the top of the 9th with a 1 pitch single to LF by Jason Bartlett of CWS closer Jenks. Evan Longoria was then drilled in the back by Jenks. With no out Ben Zobrist singled to CF giving the Rays bases loaded with 0 outs. Pat Burrell, struggling mightily this year, stepped to the plate and earned a bases loaded walk to tie the game. Carlos Pena, who had just entered the game for Willy Aybar for defensive purposes, lifted a fly ball to RF to score the go ahead run. Honestly this was all there was to the offense…..
The Rays have been doing what they need to do to win. They are 4-1 since the break with all 4 wins being late inning, come from behind wins. That’s the magic we’ve been missing to this point in the season. This great start to the second half has placed the Rays within 3.5 games of the wildcard and 4.5 games out of first place in the AL East. It’s going to be an exciting 2 months gang so hang on tight!