Sixth-inning rally clinches win at Disney
Rays bat around Jays ace Halladay, while Hammel lasts six
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Maybe Disney really is a Magic Kingdom.
How else can one explain a team erasing a 3-0 lead against Jays right-hander Roy Halladay? But that's exactly what the Rays did Wednesday night, when they scored four runs in the sixth against the Toronto ace en route to a 5-3 win over the Jays in front of a crowd of 8,989. So "believe in the magic" as the Rays moved to 5-0 at Disney's Champion Stadium.
Halladay is one of the best pitchers in baseball. Normally he runs away and hides once he has a lead. And Matt Stairs took care of getting Halladay a lead with two home runs against Rays starter Jason Hammel.
Conventional wisdom would have told the Rays to sack the bats. But that's the beauty of kids -- they never listen.
"We don't know that we're not supposed to do that," said Evan Longoria, who has been in the Major Leagues two weeks. "We only know one thing, and that's to just keep hitting until the end."
Dioner Navarro ignited the magic when he doubled to lead off the sixth. Jason Bartlett then drove a single to right to put runners at first and third. One out later, Carl Crawford singled up the middle off Halladay's first pitch. B.J. Upton drew a walk to load the bases and bring up Carlos Pena. But Halladay prevailed by striking out the Rays' cleanup hitter. On the verge of escaping the jam with little damage, Halladay wasn't able to retire Longoria, who singled to right, driving in Bartlett and Crawford to tie the score.
"He just left the ball over the plate on mine, and I finally got a pitch I could handle," said Longoria, who was 0-for-2 heading into his third at-bat of the night. "I was thinking about doing something different than I did the first two at-bats -- whether it be hit it up the middle, hit a fly ball, something different. My approach from the beginning of the day was to hit the ball up the middle and go the other way -- lay off that sinker in. The first two [at-bats], I didn't do that."
Tuesday night's hero, Eric Hinske, then put the finishing touches on the inning with a single to right to put the Rays up 4-3.
"I was battling up there, got a pitch I could handle with two strikes, the momentum shifts right there," Hinske said. "And then we go, [the bullpen] comes in and does a great job, huge win for us."
Hinske played five years in Toronto, so he's seen firsthand what Halladay can do.
"For about five years I played over there, and it's tough to get to him when he's got a three-run lead so that's a huge win for us tonight to come back like that," Hinske said. "I've seen time in, time out where he gets that lead and just goes into cruise control and shut that team down, so that four-run inning was huge."
Halladay said he simply did not "make pitches with guys on."
"Especially with Longoria, I tired to get the ball in and I just didn't get it in," Halladay said. "It was kind of the same thing with Hinske in the at-bat after that. I just didn't make quality pitches when I had to, and it's tough. You get a chance to win it and you don't make pitches like that, especially after getting two runs. That makes a big difference."
While Hinske's bat drove in the go-ahead run, he wanted to talk about his teammates.
"I don't know, you know we got some good hits, some timely hits, for sure -- definitely, Evan's at-bat," Hinske said. "For a young guy to be able to make that kind of adjustment on a pitcher like that speaks volumes of that young man ... that's awesome to stay inside, two big runs right there."
Crawford tripled to lead off the eighth and scored on Upton's sacrifice fly to push the lead to 5-3 and give the Rays some insurance.
Hammel turned in a solid performance, holding the Jays to three runs on four hits in six innings.
"I tip my hat to the hitters," said Hammel, who moved to 2-1 on the season. "The hitters came through. ... [Halladay] goes deep into ballgames. Usually you give him three runs and that's good enough."
Hammel gave way to Dan Wheeler, who started the seventh and worked two scoreless innings before Troy Percival pitched the ninth to preserve the win and earn his third save of the season.
"They're a tough team over there -- a talented team," Jays manager John Gibbons said. "On the nights they pitch, they're tough to beat."
And on nights when they play at the Magic Kingdom, they have been -- thus far -- impossible to beat.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.