Unlike the French missionaries and explorers who came to Milwaukee as early as the late 1600's to trade with the Native Americans, the Rays are not frequent visitors of the place the Algonquins called "the good land." That didn't stop David Price from feeling right at home this afternoon as he pitched eight strong innings to lead the Rays to a victory and a series win.
Despite an impressive final line (8IP, 2ER, 5H, 1BB, 1HBP, 10K), Price did not look great in the first inning. Rickie Weeks led off the game with a sharp single through the left side and Price followed by hitting Corey Hart on the foot with a breaking ball to put runners on first and second with no outs. Ryan Braun then singled on a ball to right to plate the Brewers' first run. With runners on first and third with no outs, Prince Fielder hit a grounder up the middle that Elliot Johnson conveniently fielded next to second base and was able to turn the double play. This allowed Hart to score the Brewers' second and final run.
All told, Price threw 27 pitches in the first, but was able to rebound and put up goose eggs through eight. He threw 120 pitches, two shy of his career high, and topped out at 97.5 MPH. He induced eight swinging strikes (6.66%) and seemed to get stronger as the game progressed, striking out four of the last five hitters he faced. Of his ten strikeouts, Price victimized Weeks the most, K'ing the leadoff hitter three consecutive times after his single in the first.
Also, all eight of the Brewers' hits (5 off Price, 3 off Farnsworth) were singles. No Beerman was able to put solid wood on the ball today.
The Rays hitters, however, were able to do some damage... after the jump.
Kelly Shoppach and Elliot Johnson contributed a two-run and a three-run homer, respectively. Shoppach's came in the second inning off of Brewers' starter Shaun Marcum. Shoppach took an elevated outside fastball the other way and cleared the right field wall. Off the bat, the ball didn't seem that well struck, but it just kept flying through the air until it cleared the fence and evened the score at 2-2.
Johnson, Elliot, Super Utility Specialist's blast came in the seventh inning off of reliever Tim Dillard. The Rays had taken the lead in the sixth on a B.J. Upton texas-leaguer RBI to center and Johnson blew the game open with two men on in the seventh by taking a low sinker out of the yard to DEEP right center. In his post-game interview with Todd Kalas, Johnson gave Price the credit for the blast, citing that if Price wasn't pitching so well, Johnson would have been asked to bunt the runners over and Johnny Damon would have pinch hit for the Rays fireballer. He also claimed Price told him to "Hit a homer." And he did. This game is so easy, isn't it?
- With some recent bullpen struggles, Joe Maddon gave the ball to 'closer' Kyle Farnsworth with a four-run lead in the ninth. Farnsworth would coax a quick fly out to Ryan Braun to lead off the inning, but would then allow three straight singles to load the bases before Nyjer Morgan hit a sac fly to center. Farnsy was able to escape with just the one run against him by getting Mark Kotsay to ground out softly to first to end the game.
- Brewers starter Shaun Marcum left after only three innings. It seemed, at first, that he might have re-aggravated his hip flexor that pulled him from his last start, but there was also word that Brewers manager Ron Roenicke was going to allow Marcum three innings and then go from there (h/t Sveet). Either way, I'm glad the Rays were able to get into the Brewer bullpen so early.
- Both Sean Rodriguez and Justin Ruggiano were picked off at first base today, though on replay, it seemed that Rodriguez might have been safe. Can you saber-guys figure out if this is some sort of karmic-regression for all of James Shields' pickoffs this year?
- David Price wasn't able to get that elusive first hit for a Rays pitcher, but he did draw a walk in his first AB. He was put out on a fielder's choice at second, but he slid hard with some high spikes and came away with a bit of a boo-boo on his knee. He seemed awful proud of his 'battle scar,' but I'm never a fan of a pitcher exerting even an ounce of athletic ability away from the mound. Call me crotchety. Seriously, call me crotchety.
- Off-day tomorrow before the Rays head to Houston to face the Astros. James Shields takes the hill against Wandy Rodriguez. The most important thing to note here is that I'll be at all three games of this series in an effort to finally see some some baseball this summer. So if you see an inebriated Rays fan trying to replicate this, it might just be me.