A rather large question begged to be answered prior to the All-Star Break: Could the Rays continue their hot ways on the 10-game AL East road trip that followed. After the first three innings of play Friday night, the answer seemed to scream from the empty seats in the Rogers Centre, a resounding no. But something miraculous happened. Powered by Ben Zobrist, Wil Myers, Evan Longoria, and Kelly Johnson, Tampa Bay clawed its way back to defeat Toronto by a score of 8-5. I’m going to go out on a limb and say Tampa Bay is continuing its toasty ways.
In the previous three outings that followed his stint on the DL, David Price did something special. Throwing strike after strike, Price looked practically un-hittable. Hell, when you consider that he walked no one, Price didn’t just seem like the Cy Young Award winner that we know and love, he seemed — dare I say — even better. His first game back was a 70 pitch seven inning masterpiece, only to be followed by back-to-back complete game outings, one being an 87 pitch gem of a game. A question remained: Would Price be able to continue pitching like a reanimated Cy Young against teams with big league hitters?
Never mind that Toronto is a sub .500 team in the cellar of the AL East, the Blue Jays have some very talented hitters that knew exactly what Price was going to do. An aggressive hitting ball club by all accounts, Toronto wasn’t going to wait around and let David Price strike them out. And they didn’t. Toronto swarmed Price, tagging him for four runs on seven hits, including home runs by Edwin Encarnacion, JP Arencibia, and Jose Bautista. However, Price was able to do something that he was seemingly unable to do at the beginning of the season, make the proper adjustments and limit the damage. Forget that the streak of 15 quality starts has been snapped, Price was able to hang around into the eighth inning, keeping the Rays in the game throughout. As if on cue, the Rays hitters did what any good team could and would do — bail their ace out of the hole.
There’s just something about Esmil Rogers that the Rays hitters love. For all intents and purposes, a home run off Rogers is rare. Tampa Bay apparently didn’t get the memo. The Rays have tagged him for seven of his 10 total homers on the year. Unsatisfied with their back-to-back-to-back homers three weeks back, the Rays wanted more, and more they got in spades.
Ben Zobrist was first, tying the game up in the third on a 402 foot shot to right-center. Wil Myers followed suit, sending his fourth homer of the year 381 feet over the right-field wall, bringing the Rays within two runs. Evan Longoria showed signs that clouds are lifting, crushing a mammoth 442 foot blast off the third deck in left-field to lead off the sixth inning, while Kelly Johnson followed suit three batters later, tying the game up on a 412 foot solo shot to center. They’d threaten with the bases loaded in the seventh inning, ultimately tagging the Jays for four more runs on in the eighth and ninth innings.
Kelly Johnson lead off the eighth inning by slapping a single to center against Brett Cecil. Sean Rodriguez pinch hit for Matt Joyce, forcing Gibbons to make the call for RHP Steve Delabar. With an 0-2 count, Maddon surprisingly called for a bunt which Rodriguez executed beautifully, advancing Johnson to second. With one out and a runner in scoring position, Jose Molina hit a line drive to center, but right at the billy-goat himself, Colby Rasmus. If the Rays were going to do anything in the eighth inning, it was up to Ryan Roberts. He did not disappoint. Roberts sent a base hit to center, plating Kelly Johnson, while ultimately advancing to second on the throw. Roberts then moved to third on a wild pitch with Desmond Jennings at the plate. The speedy Jennings doubled to center, easily scoring Roberts from third. Myers and Rodriguez drove in two insurance runs in the ninth.
The New What Next
The Rays will attempt to continue their winning ways Saturday with Jeremy Hellickson on the mound. Helly will take on Mark Buerhle whom the Rays have had success against. You can read about the pitching match-up here. I’d imagine that this is the must win game of the series, since Tampa Bay will be facing Dickey tomorrow — and lord knows what you’ll get with him.
Rays 7/20/13 Starting Lineup
- Yunel Escobar isn’t in the lineup again, with BenZo handling the short stop duties.
- Interestingly, Wil Myers is hitting cleanup for the first time. He’s hitting .310 during the last 22 games, which is the second-best on the team behind Loney’s .373 BA.
- The Rays 18-4 run ties their best 22-game stretch in team history. They last went 18-4 in 2010.