Walking into the Trop Tuesday night, neither Phil Hughes nor David Price had earned their first win of the year. One thing was certain, barring a no-decision, one pitcher would potentially walk out of the Trop with his first win of the year. And though both pitchers kept their respective team in the game, Phil Hughes and the Yankees bested Tampa Bay, snapping the Rays four game winning streak.
Though Hughes received a no-decision, he ultimately did something in an April start that he traditionally hasn’t; he looked good. And unfortunately for the Rays, Hughes found his stuff at the wrong time. Posting a 7 IP/6 H/2 R/2 ER/2 BB/6 K slash line on 103 pitches (78 for strikes, 72% K/BB percentage) Hughes pounded the zone for the duration of his outing, righting an errant 31 pitch first inning where he gave up a run on a Desmond Jennings walk, a Ryan Roberts double, and a Ben Zobrist sac fly. The Rays had an opportunity to tack another run on in the first, but they left a little chicken on the bone. With a man on third and one out following the Zobrist sac fly, both Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce struck out out to end the inning, subsequently ending any Rays scoring threats until the seventh inning.
Though the opportunity to score more runs presented itself, Tampa Bay could only tag Hughes for one more run in the seventh. Matt Joyce reached base on a walk and was moved over to second on a James Loney single to center. Jose Molina rocketed an RBI single to right in the next at-bat which drove in Joyce. But a not-so fleet of foot Loney was thrown out at third, effectively ending the Rays scoring threat. Kelly Johnson struck out looking to end the inning.
Most impressive, Hughes was a first-pitch-strike throwing machine who was able to get ahead of the count early. After throwing 20 plus first pitches for strikes, Dave and Andy (on the radio side) questioned why the Rays hadn’t been more aggressive early in the count, asserting that the Rays hitters must have known — to a point — that Hughes would pound the. They raise a good point. Tampa Bay did a good job at ambushing Hughes in the first, but their tenacity at the plate seemed to wane.
The Rays mounted a rally in the ninth inning against Mariano Rivera, but they ultimately fell a couple of runs short of their fifth consecutive win. Evan Longoria led off the ninth with a 432-foot first pitch blast to left-field, but Rivera made short order of the remaining three batters
David Price looked much better, but he still wasn’t the 20-5 pitcher that we know so well.
Price gave up the lead a couple of times, and his velocity was still noticeably down, though he worked in to the ninth inning, pitching his most complete game of the season. He left Tropicana Field still in search of his first victory of the year. Per DRaysBay,
“For Price, there are reasons to be pleased despite the loss. The left-hander worked primarily off his power fastball (60% of his pitches) and appeared to have regained some missing velocity that plagued many of the Rays starters early in the season (94 MPH avg). In addition, Price was effective with his cutter, generating 10 strikes and 2 whiffs with the offering and mixing in a sharp curveball and solid changeup. While the Yankees tallied eight hits off the southpaw, they were all singles and many of the ground-ball variety, a feeling akin to death by paper-cut. Price’s first run of the game was the direct result of a strike-out wild pitch that reached base and scored two batters later on a couple of singles. Price also did not issue a walk and struck out five.”
Fernando Rodney’s outing was of greater concern. The Rays reliever couldn’t cleanly get out of a no-out, runner-on-first situation in the ninth.
Coming on in relief, following a lead-off base hit by Robinson Cano, Rodney went to work and promptly struck out Vernon Wells. But Cano stole second which lead Joe Maddon to call for the intentional walk of Travis Hafner. With a double play in mind, Rodney walked Lyle Overbay after being ahead 1-and-2.
Rodney got the second out on a diving grab by first baseman James Loney, but a quick third out would prove to be elusive. Ichiro lined the first pitch to center, driving in two runs to give the Yankees the ultimate lead.
Rodney, who gave up five earned runs in 2012, has already allowed four this season. Granted it would be a ridiculous to expect Rodney to perform as he had the year prior, though his outings — with the exception of two — have been shaky at best. His command has been off, and his changeup isn’t nearly as deceptive as it was in 2012.
The New What Next
The Rays will host the Yankees for one more game tonight, before they head out on the road for another 10-game road trip. Alex Cobb will take the hill for the Rays, opposite of Andy Pettitte. Tampa Bay will try to take their second consecutive home series and end their home-stand with a 5-and-1 record.
Alex Cobb (9-2, 2.95 over his past 14 starts) is coming off a win against Oakland. He is 1-1, 3.15 in three starts against the Yankees. Pettitte’s 17 wins against the Rays are the most of active pitchers, though he hasn’t started at the Trop since October 2009
Rays 4/24/13 Starting Lineup
- The quote of the day comes from Rays manager Joe Maddon who tweeted, “I might shed a tear tomorrow. To be the first manager to be replicated in the world of gnomedom is truly an honor.”
- Luke Scott went 1-4 in a minor league rehab start in Port Charlotte Tuesday.
- …and today’s wild kingdom guest in the Rays clubhouse is: