June 29, 2012; St. Petersburg, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Rays relief pitcher Fernando Rodney (56) reacts after they beat the Detroit Tigers at Tropicana Field. Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Detroit Tigers 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-US PRESSWIRE
We can talk about Zim Bears all we want, or, you know, the game, but the biggest story of the night is most certainly David Price, and not for what he did on the field. Don't get me wrong, he pitched very well and was on his way to a complete game, but everyone is going to be talking about his back. The now 11 game winner left the game before the start of the eighth inning as a precautionary measure with tightness in his lower back. We've heard the word "precautionary" before when it comes to Rays injuries. The Rays haven't had good luck with injuries this year, having seen Evan Longoria, Luke Scott, Matt Joyce, Jeff Keppinger, Kyle Farnsworth, B.J. Upton, Desmond Jennings, Jeff Niemann and Jeremy Hellickson land on the disabled list at one point or another. If the back tightness does lead to a stint on the disabled list Chris Archer will make a return trip to the rotation for the Rays.
Getting back to the game on the field, Price was excellent. He dominated his seven innings, striking out seven while walking just one. He seemed to have a different game plan against the usually aggressive Tiger lineup. Instead of effectively mixing in his changeup and curveball like he had been all season he relied mainly on his fastball. Of his 78 pitches just 12 were not fastballs. His whiff percentage on the night wasn't very high but it's not going to be when Detriot hitters struck out looking five times.
That's likely a combination of Price's stuff and Bob Davidson's wide strikezone. Nearly every time Price did allow a base runner they were erased soon there after by a double play, which he got three of. His 53.5% ground ball rate will only go up after recording 10 tonight, seven of which were turned into outs. Losers of four straight, and not having pitched very well in any of the games, the Rays were in desperate need of an outing like that. The victory was made sweeter due to the opposing starter.
That's about as close as you'll come to see Justin Verlander get "rocked". He needed 120 pitches to get through six innings, allowing all four runs, including three home runs. It wasn't that he pitched particularly poorly, he just left some pitches up in the zone that the Rays were able to connect on. The biggest offender was Desmond Jennings, who came into the game slumping since his return from the disabled list but blasted two solo home runs to left field -- one coming directly after making a fantastic out by catching a fly ball as he slammed into the low wall in foul territory in left. Hopefully he's able to pick up on something from this game and keep the momentum going. The other offensive star was Ben Zobrist who reached base three times, including a long home run to right field, seeing his on base percentage creep ever closer to the .380 mark.
Some post game notes
- Price says he'll be pitching five days. That's great to hear and all but I'm not holding my breath until I see him on the mound.
- Hellickson and Farnsworth will be activated before tomorrow's game, with Brandon Gomes and Cesar Ramos (sad face) being optioned to Durham.
- The win coupled with New York's loss puts the Rays 5.5 back in the division.