tampabay.com

With back to wall, Reyes delivers

On the verge of blowing his second straight save, the Rays closer salvages the series finale.

By EDUARDO A. ENCINA
Published August 16, 2007


BOSTON - Redemption came early for Al Reyes, but it wasn't easy.

The Rays closer said he slept well Tuesday night after the Red Sox victimized him for a ninth-inning comeback win that sent Fenway Park into a frenzy. But relievers must have short memories, and less than 24 hours later, Reyes was back on the mound under similar pressure.

It was an "interminable ninth" inning, as Rays manager Joe Maddon called it. And considering the way the AL East-leading Red Sox eked out two wins despite stellar starts by James Shields and Scott Kazmir, there was a feeling Boston might prevail again Wednesday despite an early six-run deficit, especially the way Red Sox hitters were bouncing hits off the Green Monster in the late innings.

The Rays would need every run, and a short memory from their closer.

The 37-year-old Reyes, working consecutive days for the first time in more than 10 weeks, survived a meticulous 33-pitch ninth inning against a hard-charging Red Sox lineup, preserving a 6-5 win and giving the Rays (46-74) their first win at Fenway in six games this season.

"I guess it felt longer than last night," Reyes said. "I just tried to stay aggressive.

"I think about it for a little bit, but not at all the next day. I knew what my mistake was. I just wanted to come back and make my pitches."

Andy Sonnanstine (2-8) gave the Rays their third quality start in as many games here, allowing just four hits over 62/3 innings, earning his first win since June 10 and breaking a winless streak of 10 starts.

With Tampa Bay nursing a 6-4 lead in the ninth, ex-Ray Julio Lugo outlasted Reyes in an 11-pitch at-bat, doubling to the power alley in left-center to score Coco Crisp, who led off with a bunt hit down the third-base line.

Reyes bore down with the tying run on second, striking out hot-hitting Dustin Pedroia then whiffing Kevin Youkilis after falling behind 3-and-0.

After falling behind 3-and-0 to David Ortiz, Reyes worked the count full but walked Ortiz, putting the winning run on base. But he recovered to strike out Manny Ramirez on a fastball high and inside, then threw up his arms in relief.

The Red Sox made a push for Reyes, who was coming back from a second Tommy John surgery, in the offseason, but Reyes re-signed with the Rays, who had paid him to rehab his elbow.

"I've got to give Al a lot of credit, the way he pitched through that part of the batting order. That was an excellent job," manager Joe Maddon said. "He was never rattled. He just kept attempting to make his pitch. He doesn't throw overly hard, but he knows where he wants to throw and normally he gets it there."

The Rays offense snapped out of a three-game funk, scoring five in the first three innings and chasing Daisuke Matsuzaka after six runs in six innings. That included a four-run third paced by Carlos Pena's two-run double high off the leftfield wall. Pena also drove in a run in the first.

The Rays scored the eventual winning run in the sixth on Dioner Navarro's sacrifice fly to left, scoring Brendan Harris, who led off the inning with a triple off the Green Monster.