Coming into today's game, David Price had allowed four earned runs in his last five starts dating back to April 25th. He allowed four earned runs in the first inning today. The Riddler has made plenty of hitters look clueless this season, however, he could not figure himself out in that first frame.
The Rays' lefty gave up four runs on three walks and three hits including a big three-run blast by Pedro Feliz. It took Price 41 pitches to get those first three outs (23 strikes 18 balls). The biggest problem was lack of control. Price had little-to-no feel for his breaking ball in the first inning, and every fastball seemed to be belt-high or above. The two times he threw a curveball in the inning they went two feet wide and five feet high.
Price would never really get the feel back for his curve, but to his credit he did rebound nicely after that nightmare inning, settling down to work five innings total. He used just 47 pitches over his final four frames. The only blemish after the first inning was a solo home run allowed to Hunter Pence in the fifth. Price did get nine swinging strikes (10.2%) and had good velocity even as he neared the end of his day.
Despite the start, Price going five innings, and saving the bullpen from extra work, is pretty big given the fact the Red Sox are coming to town and the team has no off days on the horizon. Thanks to the offense, Price was able to "earn" his American League leading seven win.
Speaking of offense...
The Rays went into Sunday's contest without their offensive leader Evan Longoria. Longo played in the Rays' first 43 contests before sitting this one out. Small Sample Size rules apply, but the Rays are averaging 10 runs a game when he sits.
With Longoria on the bench, the Rays had a bit of a lineup shuffle. Jason Bartlett joined Longoria on the pine, moving Ben Zobrist to the leadoff spot. Zobrist's normal spot of third in the lineup was given to John "I dare you to send me down" Jaso. In the field, Reid Brignac started at short stop while Hank Blalock made his Rays debut at third base.
Zobrist and Jaso were offensive stars in their new lineup spots. Zobrist went 3-6 including his second home run. He would drive in two and also score twice. It was his solo home run in the third inning that got the Rays offense going. The man is on fire right now. Coming into the game, his May weighted on-base average (wOBA) was .418.
In the fifth inning, with Carl Crawford on second base, Jaso smashed a two-run shot to right field to tie the game 4-4. Hank Blalock would give the Rays a temporary 5-4 lead as he went opposite field for his first home run as a Ray. Jaso would add two more RBI on his first career triple in the eight inning, putting the game out of reach. Although he has about half the plate appearances, here are Jaso's numbers compared to Joe Mauer's right now:
SSS and all that, but it's pretty amazing to see how well John Jaso has done.
Reid Brignac added three more hits to his total as he raised his OPS to .831 on the season. The Rays would get a hit from every starter today except B.J. Upton, who looked completely overmatched by Bud Norris.
Five Rays' relievers would work the final four innings including impressive outings by Grant Balfour and Joaquin Benoit. Benoit struck out the side in the sixth inning. He has nine straight strikeouts over his last three appearances. This makes me happy.
You can find flaws in each of the three games, but you can't argue with the end result. A sweep would have been great, but the Astros are still a major league team (most days), and the Rays took two out of three games in their house without playing one complete game.
Bring on Boston!