There's no such thing as must win games in August, but last night's was about as close as they come. There's no reason in the world that one of the best teams in baseball should ever lose three games in a row to the Oakland A's. Thankfully the Rays didn't.
The first inning didn't turn out too well for David Price, but it wasn't as if he got hit hard. The A's scored two runs - while Price threw 43 pitches - but they didn't hit a single ball hard. A couple of soft ground balls found holes, the A's ran a double steal followed by a sac fly and a bloop single that fell into theBermuda Triangle in left field. Price settled down nicely after that, saving the bullpen a bit by going six innings. He did allow two more runs, but one of those was aided by a throwing error on Evan Longoria. With Daric Barton on first after a walk, Kurt Suzuki lined out sharply to third. Longoria tried to double up Barton at first, but instead threw it past Pena into the cavernous foul territory of the Oakland Colisium. The play looked too close to attempt a throw like that in this stadium. Eating that ball is the safe play, and likely would have prevented Barton from scoring on Mark Ellis' double.
It was encouraging to see Price not rely so much on his fastball. He threw it only 70 times in 98 pitches. His best pitch on the night was his curveball. Price unleashed it 20 times and registered 16 strikes - four of the swinging variety. While the results weren't there tonight, the fact that he trusted his secondary stuff that much is a good sign going forward.
The error by Longoria didn't hurt toobad considering he had hit a home run in the second inning, his third in the past four games. A Carl Crawford single, a Carlos Pena double, and a Ben Zobrist sac fly helped the Rays score a run in the 6th inning, momentarily evening the score up at two. The Rays would take the lead for good in the 8th. With two outs and Pena on first, Willy Aybar doubled to deep center off Craig Breslow, scoring the run. Bob Geren, with Brad Ziegler warm in the bullpen, decided to let Breslow face Sean Rodriguez. That turned out to be a mistake in hindsight, as Rodriguez belted a home run to deep center field. If Ziegler is brought in the Rays probably don't take the lead that inning. But, he wasn't, and the Rays get a much needed victory to stay one game back of the Yankees.
- Good job by Randy Choate, Chad Qualls, and Rafael Soriano to finish up the game. Over their three combined innings of work they allowed just one hit and struck out four.
- In a completely unrelated note, did anyone see Russell Branyan's upper deck shot at Yankee Stadium yesterday? My God.