Thank You Johnny (and Longo)

If you like pitching duels, this was a fantastic game to watch for the first seven innings as David Price and Johnny Cueto traded darts. The only offense either team put up in the first seven innings was a solo shot by Damon in the fourth inning. The only other hit the Rays lolfense was able to muster was a double past Joey Votto down the first base line by Casey Kotchman while the rest of the offense hit some hard liners or struck out against Cueto who hit all of his spots tonight. After those seven innings of fine pitching, the game took a very different turn in the final two innings.

 

 

Price was at 105 pitches after seven innings but Maddon made the decision to leave him in to start the eighth. Price's previous high pitch count was 120 pitches so the decision was not that unusual. Drew Stubbs led off the inning with a deep fly ball to center field that we have seen B.J. Upton catch eight out of every ten times one is hit like that; tonight was one of the two times he did not catch it. With the infield in and nobody out, Price left a pitch up for the aging Edgar Renteria to rope into left field to tie the game up. Price settled down to strike out Chris Heisey for a third time and made Brandon Phillips look silly on a handful of changeups to get two outs. At this point, Price was at 116 pitches with Joey Votto coming to the plate but Maddon made the decision to stick with Price rather than go to Howell who was ready in the pen or to even pitch around Votto to get to Rolen and Votto made the Rays pay with a double off the left-field wall to put the Reds in the lead.

On the night, Price threw 119 pitches in 7.2 innings while allowing just five hits (well, four hits until the official scorer changed the obvious error on Brignac to a single), one walk, and struck out 12 throwing 87 pitches for strikes for one of the tougher losses a Rays' pitcher has taken this season.Tommy Rancel was on site tonight working for ESPN 1040 and had this to say after taking in the game and chatting with Price post-game:

Price completed seven shutout innings with 105 pitches, but was back on the mound to start the eighth. The 1-0 lead he had been clinging to quickly evaporated after a leadoff triple and single tied the game up at 1-1. He battled back for two more strikeouts (12 on the night tied a career-high), but gave up the lead on Joey Votto double. He finished the night with 118 pitches thrown (86) strikes including over 75% fastballs. As his night came to a close, Price began throwing more changeups. He threw 14 changeups overall with nine of them coming in the final 20 pitches thrown.  After the game Price said his changeup was really his second pitch tonight, adding that this was the first game he felt he could really say that.

 

Peralta came in to make quick work of Rolen end the inning and bring the Rays up with the bottom half of the lineup due up.

Upton led off the frame striking out with John Jaso and Sam Fuld singling in the next two at bats after him. With out out, Reid Brignac failed to move the runners over by flying out to shallow left field bringing up Damon with two outs. At this point, Johnny Cueto was only at 96 pitches but Dusty Baker made the decision to bring in his lefty specialist Bill Bray. Bray had faced 55 left-handed batters on the season and had given up just one extra base hit all season to them along with eight singles while striking out 14 of them. He worked Damon to two strikes and Damon did one of his classic bloop swings and put the ball into the devil's triangle in left field that was created by Baker and something Rancel pointed out on Twitter earlier in the game.

, but the Reds play a ridiculously deep OF

If Chris Heisey would have been playing a normal depth, he likely catches Damon's cue shot, but he missed it by an inch and the ball kicked away from him allowing Damon to turn the play into a double and drive in the two runs for the Rays to take the lead. Kyle Farnsworth was already warming up in the eighth inning so he was ready to come in for the ninth and save his 17th game in 18 tries for the Rays and that effort lasted about three pitches before Farnsworth let a backdoor cutter come in through the front door and Jay Bruce crushed it to deep center field to tie the game. Farnsworth finished off the frame to set up Longoria's heroics in the 9th inning as he hit the second pitch from Logan Ondrusek over the left-field fence for the walk off home run.That home run came as Longoria had a .190/.304/.304 slash line at home in 92 plate appearances and it was just his third home run at Tropicana Field in 2011.

Take away Damon and Longoria's efforts and the offense was 3 for 21 with one walk and six strikeouts in another rather hapless effort masked by late inning heroics. Before the eighth inning tonight, the Rays had driven in just four runs in their previous 27 innings, a total they matched in the final two frames tonight. Tomorrow is a 12:10 start as Juego CG goes for another masterpiece against Edinson Volquez as the Rays get their last time off in the first half after the game tomorrow before Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday come to town on Friday.
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