After the Rays took their 41 hangover loss to Francisco Liriano and the Twins, it was time to make their final roadtrip and chase the division championship. Their first stop: Baltimore, a haven for tradition, legendary sports figures, and years of bad baseball. I actually met an Orioles fan over the weekend… we do have that common Yankee dislike. And the Red Sox too. Anyway, it was announced Sunday that last night’s series opener would be started by David Price. It would be his first Major League start, and for both the 2007 first Draft pick and the Rays as a whole, it would be by no means insignificant.
Facing an unknown named Brian Bass, Price found that hits would come at a premium for both teams. No Ray reached base until the fifth inning, when Bass walked the bases loaded. A two run single by Akinori Iwamura drove in the first two runs of the game. Price let Baltimore tie it in the bottom half following Evan Longoria’s third error in two games (hopefully I’ll never have to say that again), and departed after 5.1 innings with the game tied. He surrendered two runs (one earned) on four hits and three walks with three strikeouts. The Rays, who only had three hits in the game two from Jason Bartlett to go with eight walks, took the lead on Bartlett’s second double and never looked back, winning 42 behind a solid bullpen performance by Grant Balfour, J.P. Howell and Dan Wheeler. Combined with Boston’s timely 43 loss to Cleveland, the Rays gained a critical game in the standings and are now up by 2½ games with seven left to play and the magic number at four.
Price did not disappoint in his 88pitch outing, throwing his mid90s fastballs from start to finish and showing fairly good pitch command. He wasn’t bad for a first start in a road game with playoff implications. His team picked up the win, so he’s probably satisfied for now, but determined to only get better. Which he will do in the near future.
The Rays have a doubleheader at Camden Yards tomorrow, which hopefully will earn them their first doubleheader sweep in franchise history. There is no better time than this one to do it. Why not slice that magic number in half? Until they do so, go Rays.