David Price entered his primetime start Sunday night with a 5.67 ERA in five starts versus the Rangers and a 15.63 ERA in two starts at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. But those stats didn’t take into account that David Price was on a mission and on a roll entering his start. And the results were a whole lot more desirable for the Rays.
The Rangers got off to an early lead against Price, stringing together a 1-out Elvis Andrus walk, a stolen base, and a Josh Hamilton RBI single. On the next play, Price got Adrian Beltre to ground into a force play at 2nd. That would not be notable at all, but Hamilton’s back tightened up as he slid into second base, which would cause him to leave the game an inning later, eliminating one the Rangers’ biggest threat in their lineup.
The Rays staked out Price to a lead in the top of the 2nd against Rangers lefty Derek Holland. Ben Zobrist led off the inning with a triple past the dive of Nelson Cruz into the right field corner, and that was just the start. Jeff Keppinger singled Zobrist home, B.J. Upton doubled, Luke Scott doubled Keppinger home, and Sean Rodriguez followed with a sac fly to give the Rays a 3-1 lead. Zobrist plated Carlos Pena on an RBI double off the left field wall to extend that lead to 4-1, although he was gunned down by Nelson Cruz trying to score on an Upton flyball to end the inning.
The Rangers tried to build on the momentum they received from Cruz’s great throw, singling twice with 2 outs, but Price struck out Mike Napoli to end the threat. The Rangers then got singles from Yorit Torrealba and Craig Gentry to begin the 5th, but Price escaped the inning allowed just 1 run on an Elvis Andrus groundout to keep the Rays’ lead at 4-2. Price got lucky on a trio of outfield flyballs in the 6th, but Desmond Jennings restored the Rays’ 3-run cushion with an RBI triple in the 7th.
Price exited after going into the 7th inning, tossing 6.1 innings of 6-hit, 2-run ball, striking out 6 while walking just 1. 80 of his 117 pitches were strikes and he got 9 groundouts compared to 4 flyouts, 3 of which came in the 6th inning. He labored, but he held down the powerful Rangers lineup and gave the Rays exactly the type of outing they needed to get a win both in the game and the series.
Joel Peralta finished off the 7th for the Rays and then tossed a perfect 8th with a strikeout. Then Fernando Rodney came in for the 9th as rain started pouring down in Arlington. Michael Young flied out to start the inning. Then Nelson Cruz singled to right. Rodney got ahead of Napoli 0-2 but hit him with a pinch to bring the tying run to the plate in Yorvit Torrealba. Rodney dominated Torrealba, striking him out on three pitches to bring Mitch Moreland to the plate, Moreland hit a soft tapper to the left of the mound, Rodney went to field it, but he couldn’t field it clearly, bringing Ian Kinsler to the plate. But Rodney got Kinsler to hit a soft liner back the mound and snared it to preserve the Rays’ 5-2 lead. Price (4-1) earned the win while Holland (2-2) took the loss, allowing 5 runs on 9 hits, striking out 8 while walking 2. The Rays came away with a much-needed win, clinching 2 out of 3 from the Rangers, who are now tied with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the best record in baseball. The Rays got a nice start from Price against a topflight Rangers offense, and Zobrist and the lineup stepped up as well. The Rays left satisfied with their series in Arlington and head back to Tropicana Field for a 4-game set with the Seattle Mariners looking to continue their hot streak as a team having won 8 of their last 10 games. The season is still so young but the Rays are playing well and look to keep this going.