The Orioles beat the Rays by a score of 7-4, taking the first game of a three game set to open the 2013 season. The Rays had their ace David Price on the mound, toeing the rubber opposite of Jason Hammel in front of a sold out crowd at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. It was apparent that Price didn’t have his best stuff, though he was able to limit the damage and keep the Rays in the game until the seventh inning when LHP reliever Jake McGee would ultimately give up five runs and the lead to the Orioles — a lead that they would never relent.
Posting a 6 IP/7 H/2 R/2 ER/2 BB/4 K/1 HR slash line, Price got into trouble in the first inning after giving up a double to Adam Jones who was driven home by Matt Wieters on a 415 foot blast to left field in the very next at-bat. Wieters’ home run was the first Price has given up in the first-inning of any game since July 20, 2011, when Curtis Granderson went yard against the LHP. It would ultimately take Price 23 pitches to get out of the first inning, though he would calm down in the second, fourth, fifth, and sixth innings. Price did have a shaky third inning as well, having given up a pair of hits and a walk to load the bases with only one out. But he was able to induce a Chris Davis double play to get out of the inning relatively unscathed. The lack of velocity in Price’s fastball was noticeable, yet Price battled, giving the Rays a fighting chance.
“You don’t just come out here and turn yourself into Cy Young in the first outing,” Price said. “I’m fine with the way I threw the ball. I battled. When you don’t have your best stuff, that’s what you’ve got to do, and I felt like I did okay” Tuesday.
Granted 100 pitches (68 for strikes) in six innings may not represent the best outing, keep in mind that Price put together a quality start, and he was able to escape major damage which, as Joe Maddon put it, “Is also the sign of an excellent pitcher.”
The Rays would battle their way back into the game thanks to a fourth inning solo shot by Ben Zobrist, and a pair of sixth inning Desmond Jennings and Ben Zobrist RBI’s, giving Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead. Zobrist would end the day 2-3 at the plate with two RBI and a run. Jennings and Zobrist would ultimately account for four of the Rays six hits and three of the Rays four runs.
The Rays offense was slow to start, getting only two hits between the first and fifth innings. However watching Desmond Jennings do what he does best — swiping bags and getting into scoring position — was rather encouraging. That Zobrist and Jennings created the bulk of the Rays offense was no fluke. The success of both players is critical to the success of the team in 2013.
Evan Longoria and Sam Fuld both contributed defensively, flashing the leather while stealing hit after hit from the Orioles. All told, Longo and Fuld accounted for (at least) seven outstanding plays in the field. I’d imagine that any questions over why Fuld got the start in right field were answered. I’d also imagine that if his play Tuesday was an indication of what’s to come, we may as well just hand Evan Longoria the gold glove now. According to ESPN,
“Evan Longoria made a career-high 4 Good Fielding Plays (GFPs) as video tracked by Baseball Info Solutions today in the Rays loss to the Orioles. Previously, he had 15 games with 3 GFPs. Just check out the video (below) of a few of Longoria’s defensive gems.”
Hadn’t McGee blown the lead in the seventh, the Rays would have won a very close game to the Orioles — something we’re all familiar with by now. The loss literally came down to a couple of misplaced pitches from the hard-throwing lefty.
At this point, my concerns are two-fold:
A. Can the Rays offense crank things up, and do so consistently?
B. I can’t help but wonder why Jamey Wright is on the 25-man roster. Wright, a pitcher with a career 56.2% ground ball percentage, was only able to induce one ground out against the seven batters he faced. Wright kept the ball up, giving the Orioles an opportunity to get underneath the ball.
We’ll see if the Rays can tighten things up Wednesday when Hellickson faces Chen and the Orioles in a 7:10 matchup at the Trop.
Rays 4/3/13 Starting Lineup:
Another day, another lineup. Joe Maddon liked Johnson more than Fuld in the lineup against Chen, while he liked Rodriguez in left field with Hellickson — a fly ball pitcher — on the mound, so Johnson it is at first. Also of note, former Ray Scott Kazmir (right side) threw a 30 pitch bullpen session, saying he feels like he can start Saturday, but its up to Indians/medical staff.