Small sample sizes can lead to false bravado or fear. Coming into the game tonight, Josh Beckett had been nothing short of dominant against the Rays since the team entered its contending phase. Beckett had faced the Rays since the start of the 2008 season and had struck out 101 batters while walking just 18 in 102 innings of work. Additionally, he had only allowed three earned runs against the Rays in his last five starts against them including a win against them the last time out.
Through the first six innings of the game tonight, it looked like more of the same as only Jose Molina was able to hit a baseball safely into play while others mostly hit fly balls to Marlon Byrd who was all over the place in center field while the corner outfielders barely had to move. Then came the seventh inning.
Brian Anderson, who did a kick ass job on this national broadcast (do not steal him, Fox national), pointed out tonight how good the Rays are the deeper they get into the game against an opponent. The table below shows how those numbers play out:
|vs. SP, 1st||422||47||48||76||.245||.347||.404||119|
|vs. SP, 2nd||413||57||36||77||.275||.341||.460||116|
|vs. SP, 3rd||312||44||35||44||.292||.383||.539||142|
|vs. SP, 4th+||47||5||5||10||.333||.404||.405||118|
|vs. RP, 1st||543||43||51||134||.191||.284||.297||69|
|vs. RP, 2nd||8||0||3||1||.200||.500||.200||90|
The 7th inning was the third time through the lineup for Beckett and those small sample sizes above got the better of the smaller sample size success Beckett has enjoyed against the Rays. Upton led off with a single and good baserunning got him to third on Matt Joyce's single. Zobrist hit yet another fly ball in this game to left field which was deep enough to score Upton and force Daniel Nava to make a critical rookie mistake.
Nava had delusions of grandeur and attempted to throw Upton out at home on a play that would have only been close had Upton decided to moonwalk the final 15 feet towards home and because his throw sailed over the cutoff man, Joyce was easily able to move up to second base on the play. That put Joyce in scoring position and Luke Scott was able to exact his revenge from last night's shenanigans by driving home Joyce on a single through the shifted infield.
That inning produced three runners in scoring position and the Rays plated two of them. In the other eight innings of this game, only Ben Zobrist got into scoring position and that came in the 9th inning when he was stranded at third base to end the inning after walking, stealing second, and advancing to third. Zobrist being left and third would come back to haunt the Rays very shortly thereafter.
Fernando Rodney tilted his lid and entered the game in the 9th to face the bottom third of the order but made an unfortunate mistake of walking Daniel Nava after a long at bat. Nick Punto came in to do the predictable sacrifice bunt which moved Nava over to second for which set the stage for the red hot Jarrod Saltalamacchia who shot a 96 mph fastball from Rodney like an arrow into the Red Sox bullpen for a walk-off victory and Rodney's first blown save for the season.
Price threw 115 pitches in 7 innings, 70 of them for strikes while scattering seven singles and a wallball double to Kelly Shoppach. Price struggled early with the command of his secondary pitches but found it later and grinded through his start despite a rather frustrating strike zone from Ed Rapuano.
This makes the Rays 2-7 in games in which they score two runs or less and spoils the second great start by a starting pitcher in three games. First, James Shields had his effort scuttled by an untimely home run allowed by Peralta and Price's outstanding effort tonight is not rewarded with a win.