Winning close games hasn't been the Rays' strong suit so far in 2013. Tampa Bay suffered another very frustrating loss Thursday night in what has been a very frustrating start to the season.
David Price was on the hill for his fourth start of the year, and unfortunately looked a bit more like the David Price we saw the rough first two starts of the season, despite showing significant improvement in his previous start. He did a much better job of throwing strikes this time out, not walking a single batter and registering 70% strikes. His velocity, however, remained down (average fastball around 93 MPH), and the Orioles bats were able to make a fair share of solid contact off him.
Things were looking up for the Rays in the first inning of the game. Desmond Jennings and Evan Longoria both hit solo home runs to left and Price began the evening by striking out the side.
Tampa would extend their lead to 3-0 in the top of the second with a bases-loaded sac fly by Jennings. The Rays would load the bases again later in the inning, but failed to add on.
In the bottom of the inning, Baltimore would turn the tide with a pivotal rally. After a leadoff double by Matt Wieters, Chris Davis would continue to haunt the Rays with an RBI single.
Next up was J.J. Hardy, who grounded a routine double play ball to Ben Zobrist. Shortstop Yunel Escobar would receive the baseball and get the forceout, but lost the ball on the transfer. Steve Pearce would then flyout for the second out of the inning, which would have ended the frame if it wasn't for Escobar's sloppy defense. Nolan Reimold would make the Rays pay, smacking a game-tying two-run homer to center.
The Rays would retake the lead in the third, thanks to a throwing error by Hardy with two men on.
The Orioles would strike back in the fifth, as Manny Machado lined an RBI double off the left field wall. Nick Markakis, the go-ahead run, would get caught in a pickle between third and home, which would end the rally.
The tug-of-war match continued in the sixth as Jose Molina gave the Rays a 5-4 edge with a solo shot.
After a solid and efficient six innings for Price, Hardy would end his night with leadoff double in the seventh. His pitch count was at just 86 when Joe Maddon decided to make the move, but after a number of extra-base hits he decided that he had seen enough. Price finished the day with a line of five earned runs on eight hits and six strikeouts.
Jake McGee entered the game intending to hold the Rays' one-run lead. He wouldn't succeed to do so, as Steve Pearce—the first batter he faced—belted a two-run bomb to left.
Down 6-5, the Rays would tie up the eighth via a James Loney homer (first of the year).
Skipping to the bottom of the tenth, Jamey Wright would begin the inning allowing a leadoff single. Brandon Gomes then replaced him, giving up two straight single and then a walkoff grand slam to Matt Wieters.
This tough loss reminds us that the bullpen has not been as strong as us Rays fans would like it to be. Jake McGee—who is a huge part of the 'pen—is having trouble keeping the ball down, while Brandon Gomes and Jamey Wright have yet to find their groove. It makes me wonder whether the Rays should begin to consider calling up Chris Archer to bolster the bullpen.
The offense was a very positive sign from this game. The Rays collected 11 hits for the second straight night (they've reached double digits in hits only three times this season). The power continued to come as well, as they hit four long balls Thursday night.
The Rays, relieved that their lousy road trip is finally over, will return to the Trop Friday night for a three-game series against the A's to open up a six-game homestand. Alex Cobb (1-1, 1.93 ERA) will take the mound tonight against MLB's hottest offense and talented left-hander Brett Anderson; first pitch at 7:10 ET.
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