Matt Garza proved to be the answer for a lethargic Rays offense that entered the game averaging 2.7 runs per game in their last 18 games. In fact, Garza pitched so well that the Rays' three-run "outburst" looked like overkill.
For the second time in two weeks, Garza squared off against Roy Halladay, arguably the best pitcher in the American League, and once again, Garza came away the winner. The 24-year-old right-hander held the Blue Jays scoreless for 7 2/3 innings on July 19. On Tuesday night, Garza went the distance with a shutout, scattering five hits, while walking one and striking out five to pick up his ninth win of the season.
"Tonight I just went out with a game plan and stuck with it," Garza said. "I found a rhythm early and got a lot of quick outs which allowed me to go deep.
"I just came out of the bullpen [before the game] and told [catcher Dioner Navarro], 'Hey, let's just have some fun tonight; who cares what happens.' And we went out there and had fun."
Rays infielders helped bailed out Garza out of trouble with inning-ending double plays in the first and second innings.
The double plays were "huge," Garza said. "That's what I was going for. I could have thought 'strikeout-strikeout' or a popper. But I was just thinking double play so I could get my guys back up and keep Roy not rested. You give that guy rest and he's going to carve you up and go the distance. So I just wanted to keep this game going and have a good tempo."
The Rays added another inning-ending double play in the seventh, while Evan Longoria added two web gems in the seventh and eighth innings to steal hits and help Garza reach the finish line.
Longoria's first jaw-dropper came when he backhanded Alex Rios' seventh-inning shot and threw a dart to first base for the first out, turning a play that few players can make and making it look routine.
Next, Longoria charged Matt Stairs' swinging bunt in the eighth and threw him out at first, once again preventing the leadoff hitter in the inning from reaching base.
"Longoria, I can't say enough about that guy," Garza said.
Eric Hinske put the Rays on the scoreboard with a solo home run in the third off Halladay. Mixed signals from the umpires regarding whether Hinske's ball cleared the fence prompted Hinske to continue running hard until he circled the bases for what appeared to be an inside-the-park home run. Replays showed the ball cleared the wall and later was ruled as such.
The home run gave Hinske 100 career round-trippers and supplied his teammates with a few grins in the process, since he wasn't able to enjoy a Cadillac trot around the bases.
"I kept going because the second-base umpire, Mike Winters, was ruling it safe," Hinske said. "I just kept running. I thought I saw it hit the façade over the fence and Rios and [Brad]Wilkerson just stopped. But I wanted to make sure, so I kept running. But it was cool because it finally got us going, and it got us an early lead, so it was a good way to go. ... I should get two home runs for that."
Longoria, who hit a grand slam that led to the Rays defeating the Blue Jays and Halladay in the July 19 game, added a two-run triple off the ace in the eighth to push the Rays' lead to 3-0.
"No, I don't have [Halladay] figured out," Longoria said. "He got me out three times. He just made one mistake, and it really wasn't a mistake -- it was just a pitch I was looking for and took advantage of it. He threw the same pitch earlier that I flew out to right field on. But I wasn't able to get the barrel on it. It was just a little more elevated."
Hinske, who was a teammate of Halladay's when he was with Toronto, talked to Garza after the game and put his win into perspective.
"I told him after the game how hard it is to beat Halladay at home," Hinske said. "He just kept shutting them down and shutting them down. That was huge for us as a team. We lost the opener yesterday in a close ballgame. So it was good to get this win here. If we win tomorrow we have a winning road trip. I know that hasn't happened much this year, so that's huge for us tomorrow."