June 7, 2012; Bronx, NY, USA; New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez reacts after striking out in the 5th inning of the game against the Tampa Bay Rays at Yankee Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Farrell/THE-STAR LEDGER via US PRESSWIRE
After combining for one run and eight hits over the first two games of the series the Rays broke out in a big way tonight, picking up 10 hits and scoring seven times while moving back into a tie for first place.
The offense certainly fueled the victory -- it's hard to score five runs off of Sabathia -- but the biggest turning point in the game was Alex Rodriguez's fifth inning at bat against David Price.
A walk to Mark Teixeira loaded the bases for Rodriguez with one out and the Rays leading by four. Price quickly got ahead in the count one ball to two strikes by getting A-Rod to whiff at two curveballs low in the zone. He fouled off two more curveballs and took a ball low to even the count at two a piece. After fouling off a fastball and taking a changeup outside, the count was full. A walk would bring in a run and put the go ahead run at the plate. Showing tremendous faith in his curveball, Price threw it three straight times, resulting in a foul, a foul and finally a swing and a miss. The next batter, Robinson Cano, grounded out to end the threat. In all the A-Rod at bat lasted 11 pitch at bat and one of the finest single at bats of Price's season. The strikezone plot is below.
The fact that he had so much confidence in his curveball in that situation speaks volumes about his maturation as a pitcher. Earlier in his career he'd keep blasting away with a fastball. He's trusting his secondary pitches far more this season and it's paying off nicely.
A high pitch count forced Price out after just five innings, allowing Wade Davis to wow the New York crowd for two innings of relief work. I doubt the fans were outwardly wowed by Davis' performance, but they had to be pretty damn impressed on the inside, right? He threw 21 pitches over his two innings and got six(!) swings and misses. His fastball is averaging 92mph this season, but tonight it sat at 95 with an 82mph curveball that totally fooled Yankee hitters. That may have been the best he's ever looked at the big league level.
The offense got a lot of help from the bottom of the order with Jose Lobaton, Matt Joyce and Drew sutton combining to go 5-10 with two doubles, two walks and three runs batted in. It was a much needed shot in the arm as the team heads down to Miami. As bad as they looked the first two games of the series they head down to South Beach tied for first place in the division and just a half game behind the Rangers for the best record in the American League.