After winning yesterday's nail-biter of a game, in which BJ Upton emerged as the hero when he gunned down Colby Rasmus at home plate, the Rays had to win today's rubber match to keep up the little momentum they have going for them. Even with the absence of perennial slugger Jose Bautista (done for the year), the astounding power surge of Edwin Encarnacion has made the Blue Jays a pesky team to play if you're trying to get any sort of streak going.
That "nuisance-of-a-team" trait that the Blue Jays have brought this season was completely absent, as the Rays knocked out their starting pitcher Ricky Romero after only one inning on the mound. The comparison of hits between the two teams (18 for the Rays as opposed to 8 for the Blue Jays) is just the tip of the iceberg: every starting player for the Rays got at least one hit. A statistic like that will win games close to one-hundred percent of the time, and it certainly did for the Rays this afternoon.
David Price took the mound tonight, and has really been a sleeper for the AL Cy Young, mostly because Justin Verlander, CC Sabathia, and Felix Hernandez are always getting most of the media attention. But Price has compiled an impressive season resume: a 17-5 record (after today's game) to go along with a 2.54 ERA, 175 strikeouts and a meager .225 Batting Average Allowed. He was in total command throughout the first 6 innings he pitched, not allowing a single run and minimizing his hits/walks allowed. It wasn't until the seventh inning that an Edwin Encarnacion sac fly and an error that scored Rajai Davis made it grounds to take Price out of the game. After today's game, David Price (according to ESPN's Cy Young Predictor) is in the driver's seat for the award, and Rays closer Fernando Rodney is right behind him in second.
As for the offense, let's just say the Rays were probably seeing Ricky Romero's pitches as if they were giant inflatable beach balls, thus the reason for his one-inning start on the mound. Evan Longoria doubled home Desmond Jennings to start the scoring in the first inning, making it 1-0.
The very next inning was an absolute nightmare for Romero. Ben Francisco hit a solo homer to make it 2-0, Jose Molina, Desmond Jennings, and Ben Zobrist all singled home runs (Zobrist singled home two) to make it 6-0. A Jeff Keppinger groundout that scored BJ Upton would be the last run Romero would allow, as he was yanked from the mound swiftly. Carlos Pena hit a solo homer in the third to make it 8-0, and the scoring for the Rays finally ended when Ben Francisco hit a ground rule double that scored Longoria, making it 9-0.
A massive amound of runs like this is definitely a breath of fresh air for a team that was struggling to score more than two runs during that 7 game slump. Consistent run production like the Rays have put on display that past two games is what is needed if they want to play in the postseason; right now, they're fighting for a wild card spot, but a winning streak like the one they were on two weeks ago could change things drastically.
Notable stats from today's game:
D. Price: (17-5,W) 6.2 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 4 BB, 5 SO
D. Jennings: 3-4, 2 R, RBI
B. Zobrist: 2-4, 2 RBI
E. Longoria: 2-4, 2 2B, R, RBI
B. Francsico: 2-4, 2B, R, HR, 2 RBI
C. Pena: 2-3,2 BB, 2R, RBI, HR