Before the Rays embarked on their 10-day, nine-game, West Coast road trip, the consensus was a 5-4 record would be acceptable and a 6-3 trip would be fantastic. Well it was a strange trip that included a four-game winning streak, a three game losing streak, a perfect game, and the first series win in Anaheim since Jose Canseco was the team's designated hitter, but here we are 6-3 after 10 days.
The Rays and Angels played a close game tonight with good starting pitching on both sides. It would be a few defensive mistakes by the Angels that would tip the scale in the Rays favor. Before we get to the Rays, hat tip to Jered Weaver. We don't often salute the opposing pitcher in a Rays win, but Weaver was fantastic tonight. He struckout 12 batters in seven innings. He threw 120 pitches, but got a ridiculous 23 swinging strikes. 23!!!
Lucky for us, his catcher on the evening, Ryan Budde, would have trouble catching a few of those 120 pitches. Budde allowed two run-scoring past balls on the night and looked lost at several times behind the plate. The Rays scored all four runs while Weaver was in the game, but only one of them was earned. Despite the 14 strikeouts as a team, the Rays would add eight hits tonight - giving them 32 hits for the three game series.
There weren't many offensive highlights outside of Ben Zobrist's RBI double in the first. The only other RBI would come from B.J. Upton, who looked awful at times tonight, but came up with a nice base hit to score a run. Upton's slumping partner, Carlos Pena had two of the 14 strikeouts, but also walked once again and crushed a double to deep center field late in the game. Pat Burrell went 0-3 with three K's against Weaver and was pinch hit for Willy Aybar in the eighth inning even though a right-handed pitcher was on the mound. Ouch.
Speaking of on the mound, David Price didn't dominate, but he didn't have to. Once again, Price worked into the seventh inning, finishing the night with three runs (two earned) allowed on seven hits and three walks while striking out six in 6.1 innings. Price wouldn't induce as many swinging strikes as his opponent, but 11 whiffs is still good including three waves on his curveball. Pat Androila noted Price has upped his curveball usage in 2010 and tonight was no different. He threw 28 curves with 19 of them going for a strike. In total, he would use all five pitches at various times.
The biggest item that stood out about this start was the ground balls. The Riddler came into the game with a groundball percentage of 43.4%. That percentage will jump up a bit as Price had a 12:0 groundball-to-flyball ratio on the evening. One way to keep your home runs allowed down is not allow flyballs, and Price did that perfectly.
The Rays would use five relievers to get the final final eight outs in preservation of the 4-3 victory. The Angels lineup is so tough to match-up against late in games, but Joe Maddon pushed all the right buttons including calling on Lance Cormier in the eighth inning to get the left-handed Hideki Matsui out on a groundball. Rafael Soriano would work a quick and easy ninth inning for his ninth save with the Rays.
I don't know about you, but I'm as excited about getting to bed before 1 a.m. as I am with the 15-4 start on the road. After the doom and gloom of this weekend, it was huge to get a series win in Los Angeles and capping a successful 6-3 road trip before a well-deserved off day.