The Rays looked more like themselves in the first two weeks of the season Tuesday night, not able to catch a break as they lost another very close and frustrating game.
David Price has felt the worst of the Rays’ 2013 season, as they’ve now lost all five games he started. He suffered the ‘L’ last night despite his best outing thus far (3 ER, 8 H, 5 K, 0 BB over 8.0 IP).
Tampa Bay continued their early-inning success in this ballgame, jumping out to a quick lead in the first. Desmond Jennings walked and Ryan Roberts doubled to begin Phil Hughes’ day. Ben Zobrist would knock in Roberts with a sac fly to deep center to make it 1-0.
Hughes, however, would settle in nicely. He’s had a rough start to the year, but appears to be turning things around ever since his strong start last week against Arizona.
Back to the game, the top of the fourth is where the bad luck began for the Rays. Eduardo Nunez reached base to lead off the inning thanks to a wild pitch strikeout. Vernon Wells would tie the game later in the inning, hitting an RBI single to right.
The Rays would get that run back in the seventh, taking a 2-1 lead. Matt Joyce started it off with walk, and then Yunel Escobar drove a fly ball to the center field wall only to be caught by a leaping Brett Gardner. Escobar, who has looked much improved lately at the plate, sent two well-hit balls to the warning track but ended the night without a hit to show for it.
With a runner on first and one out, back-to-back singles from James Loney and Jose Molina would plate Joyce. The rally was stifled by some bad base running, though, as Loney was thrown out trying to advance to third on Molina’s RBI single.
In the eighth, the Yankees mustered together a rally with singles from Ichiro and Jayson Nix. A Brett Gardner RBI groundout would even the game.
Heading into the ninth, Price went back to work with only 92 pitches thrown. Robinson Cano worked an excellent seven-pitch at-bat, coming back from 0-2 to line a leadoff single into left. That would be the end of Price’s night, who would be replaced by Fernando Rodney.
The first batter he faced was Vernon Wells, who he struck out as Cano swiped second. This led to Joe Maddon’s decision to intentionally walk Travis Hafner. Next up was Lyle Overbay, who walked to load the bases thanks to a missed strike three call by home plate umpire Rob Drake.
Chris Stewart followed with a shallow pop up in foul territory, which brought up Ichiro with the game tied and the bases loaded with two outs. Unfortunately, he came through with a game-winning line drive single, giving New York the late 4-2 lead.
The great Mariano Rivera, who’s had himself a nice comeback year thus far, surrendered a long solo shot to Evan Longoria to start the bottom of the ninth. He would bounce back immediately, though, retiring three straight batters to close out the 4-3 contest.
The loss snaps a four-game winning streak and puts them now two games below .500 (9-11).
The Rays return to action for the rubber match in the three-game set tonight at 7:10 ET. Alex Cobb (2-1, 2.53 ERA) will square off against ageless 40-year-old southpaw Andy Pettitte (3-0, 2.01 ERA).
News and Notes:
- One good sign from this game: David Price’s fastball velocity continues to build back up. His average four-seam fastball velocity was a whole MPH faster in last night’s ballgame (a tad over 94).
- Luke Scott (calf strain) began his minor league rehab assignment last night, going 1-4 with an RBI single and two strikeouts with Class A+ Charlotte. No word exactly on when Scott will return.
- AL East scores: The Orioles beat the Blue Jays 4-3 and the Red Sox fell to Oakland 13-0.
- The Rays completed both the Robinson Chirinos and Stephen Vogt trades earlier this week.