The Rays are a team that can nary afford a pitching mishap. It's just the way they're built. Dominant pitching mixed with just enough offense = victories. If the offense struggles. the pitching is usually good enough to keep the team in the game. The opposite usually isn't true. Tonight the offense did enough to usually earn a victory but the pitching didn't hold up it's end of the bargain.
When your ace is on the mound and your offense scores five runs you're supposed to win the game. Tonight wasn't one of those times. David Price came into the game with a major league best 2.28 ERA and 16 wins. He left the game on a much more sour note after allowing six earned runs on 10 hits in just four innings, seeing his ERA spike to 2.53. His 8.10 FIP on the night was by far the highest of the season. He also saw his streak of twelve straight games with at least seven innings pitched go out the window.
If you just looked at his strike percentages you'd think he fared fairly well -- no pitch was under 75%. The Rangers, being the best offensive team in the league, just pounced on him early and often. Price attacked the zone with fastballs and cutters, throwing just eight non fastballs of his 69 pitches. The Rangers were ready for it. After going down in order on five pitches in the first inning they quickly tied the game at two apiece and recorded four straight hits to open the second. More impressive was how aggressive they were. Adrian Beltre homered after three pitches. Nelson Cruz saw two before lifting one over the wall in right-center. The next two batters, Michael Young and Geovany Soto, each singled on the first pitch. The aggressive approach worked and Price would eventually be pulled in the fifth inning, forced to watch the rest of the game from the dugout, a sullen look hanging on his face.
The bullpen picked him up nicely, with Burke Badenhop, Kyle Farnsworth and Wade Davis allowing only one base runner -- a walk -- in four innings. The highest ERA in the pen belongs to Joel Peralta at 3.52. After tonight no one else is above 3.05.
Offensively, the top of the order did their job. The Rays 1-4 hitters went 6-15 with two triples, a home run, and five runs knocked in. The rest of the team went 0-the night.
Tough loss, but this isn't a team that lets defeat get them down. James Shields has historically pitched well against Texas, and has done pretty well in Arlington. After seeing a steady diet of fastballs tonight hopefully Shields' mix of changeups and curveballs will keep the Texas hitters off balance.