by Steve Carney
The Tampa Bay Rays got a strong outing by Jeff Niemann, and used a pair of four-run innings and a five-run frame to complete a home-and-home sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies with a 15-7 victory Saturday before a record crowd of 11,022 at Bright House Field in Clearwater.
Tampa Bay got off to a strong start in the third inning, as Jose Lobaton started the frame by reaching on an infield single. Two batters later, he moved up a base on a single by Shawn O'Malley. Desmond Jennings then followed with a single to score Lobaton, and O'Malley followed him home when leftfielder Domonic Brown could field the ball cleanly.
One batter later, Sean Rodriguez blasted his second home run of the spring into the seats in left-centerfield to make it 4-0.
Philadelphia got one back in the fourth inning, when Ryan Howard hit a solo homer off Niemann, but the Texan and reliever Dane De La Rosa combined to get out of the frame without any further damage.
Tampa Bay scratched across a run in the sixth on a sacrifice fly by Jose Lobaton after the bases were loaded with one out.
Jeremy Hellickson, who came on for a ten-pitch fifth inning, ended up giving up three runs in the sixth in a 34-pitch frame that cut the lead to a single run.
The Rays came back in the seventh with four more runs of their own, loading the bases before Leslie Anderson brought across the first run on a throwing error by John Mayberry Jr. Robinson Chirinos then brought in a run thanks to a bases-loaded walk, and Hak-Ju Lee plated two more with a single.
Alex Colome kept the offenses hot, allowing three runs of his own to cut the lead back to 9-7, but the bats exploded in the top of the eighth, getting six more runs, with a two-run single for Anderson, RBI double by Chirinos, two-run homer by Duncan, and RBI single by Cole Figueroa.
Tampa Bay will return to Port Charlotte Sunday to welcome the Boston Red Sox. Matt Moore is scheduled to start against John Lackey. First pitch is at 1:05, with coverage on 620 WDAE starting at 1:00.