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Rays blast way past Lester, Red Sox

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Published:   |   Updated: June 12, 2013 at 06:28 AM
ST. PETERSBURG -

Matt Joyce was in the starting lineup Tuesday against the Red Sox not because of what transpired the night before, but because Rays manager Joe Maddon had to play a left-hander and he figured Joyce would have a better chance against lefty Jon Lester.

After writing Joyce's name on the lineup card, Maddon decided he did want Joyce to face the Red Sox one night after being the center of attention in a bench-clearing incident.

Joyce responded with a mammoth home run in the fifth inning, a two-run shot that gave the Rays the breathing room they needed in an 8-3 victory in front of 16,870 at Tropicana Field.

It was only the second win against the Red Sox this season for the Rays, and it came with another welcome sight — a deep outing by Roberto Hernandez, who pitched into the eighth and threw a career-high 122 pitches.

"Roberto took charge," Maddon said. "Kind of not really sharp in the beginning, but I think I'm learning a lesson with him. If we can get him deeper in the game, he gets better."

Maddon also said he's learning something about Joyce; that he's learning how to grind his way through a season.

"I think he's growing up in this game. I think he's learning," Maddon said. "I think he knows that if something doesn't work out, just file that and come back for the next at-bat or the next play on defense."

Joyce found himself in the spotlight Monday when he was hit by a pitch from Boston's John Lackey. Though Lackey claimed he was only pitching inside, Joyce and the rest of the Rays saw it as retaliation for Joyce dropping his bat after hitting a long foul ball on a 3-0 count. That came during Joyce's second at-bat. In his first he had homered off Lackey.

Joyce found himself in the spotlight again before Tuesday's game, the fallout from calling what Lackey did a "pretty bush league move."

Nothing happened between the teams Tuesday, but Joyce was clearly on everyone's radar.

He drove a ball to the wall in right-center field during his first at-bat, beat out an infield single with a dive into bag in his second at-bat, then crushed his 12th home run of the year in his third at-bat, a 422-foot shot in the fifth that gave the Rays a 7-3 lead.

"That's a great feeling, especially to help your team win," Joyce said.

Maddon was impressed with Joyce's diving efforts to catch balls Sunday against Baltimore. He missed one but caught the second while landing on his stomach. Maddon also liked the way Joyce grinded out his at-bats that afternoon.

Maddon brought that up with Joyce before Monday's game.

"I told him I just want you to know that last game against Baltimore, you demonstrated to me a level of toughness that I have not seen from you before," Maddon said.

Tuesday's win was a nice bounce-back for the Rays and helped erase the sting of Monday's 14-inning, 10-8 loss.

Desmond Jennings hit two home runs and Evan Longoria homered for the second straight game as the Rays smacked four home runs in consecutive games for the first time in franchise history.

Jennings, moved back to the leadoff spot on a temporary basis because the Rays were facing their first left-handed starter in 15 games, followed Joyce's home run with his second of the game.

That was enough for Hernandez, who survived a rough first inning and pitched into the eighth for only the second time this season.

He said he had trouble with his sinker in the first inning. From there, he was able to keep the ball down, work ahead in the count and take some of the burden off a bullpen that picked up 10 innings during Monday's marathon.

"I'm happy about that," Hernandez said. "Everybody had a long day (Monday)."

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