It’s frustrating to fall behind in games as a pitcher. But the best pitchers can stay composed and find a rhythm to keep their team in the game. David Price could not have been happy about the beginning of the game, but he shut the Jays down from there and gave the Rays the opportunity to come back.
Price wasn’t overpowering over the first two innings, allowing a hit in each inning with just 1 strikeout, but he was able to keep the Jays off the board. But things came apart a bit in the 3rd. Rajai Davis hit a groundball to short to begin the inning, and even though the speedy Davis was going to beat out the play, Elliot Johnson made a bad throw to first base, allowing Davis to go to second base. But Price rebounded to strike out Kelly Johnson and force Yunel Escobar to ground out to 3rd. If he could get Jose Bautista, he would be out of the inning. Price and Molina elected to waive their usual shift against Bautista, which features three infielders on the left side of the infield, as they worked away against Bautista. But Price missed in with a fastball, and Bautista found a hole up the middle with second baseman Will Rhymes in his usual second base position, scoring Davis to give the Jays a 1-0 lead. Two pitches later, Price missed up and out over the plate with a fastball to the red-hot Edwin Encarnacion, and Encarnacion slammed a 2-run homer to left-center, and suddenly the Blue Jays had a 3-0 lead. It was a frustrating series of events for Price as two bad pitches in a three pitch span cost him three runs.
The Rays managed a bunt hit by Matt Joyce in the first and an error on the play by Toronto starter Henderson Alvarez to advance him to second base. But Alvarez escaped that threat and he also avoided damage in the third inning after Rajai Davis gunned down Ben Zobrist at the plate on a B.J. Upton single. After getting a lead in the bottom of the third inning, Alvarez managed to work around a Brett Lawrie error in the 4th. But he finally let up a run in the 5th, allowing a Will Rhymes leadoff single and three batters later, after Rhymes advanced to third on two groundballs, a Ben Zobrist bloop double to pull the Rays within 3-1. Price, meanwhile, got into a groove, retiring 9 in a row following a Brett Lawrie hit-by-pitch to begin the bottom of the 4th. His efforts finally paid off in the 7th.
Alvarez left a fastball up and away from Sean Rodriguez to begin the inning, and Rodriguez went right with it, driving it to the opposite field. The result was a booming home run to right-center to pull the Rays within a run. The Rays weren’t anywhere near done. After Will Rhymes singled, Jose Molina reached an error, and Elliot Johnson singled before Rhymes scored on yet another Blue Jays error to even the score. After a wild pitch advanced the runners, Ben Zobrist hit a line drive that was knocked down on the infield to load the bases. And then the Rays took the lead on a double play grounder off the bat of B.J. Upton (not exactly climactic) to take a 4-3 lead in the game. Alvarez went 6.2 innings for the Blue Jays, allowing 4 runs, 2 earned, on 10 hits, striking out just 1 while walking none. Sure, he allowed a 15-1 groundout to flyout ratio, but he just allowed far too many balls in play, and eventually it cost him. Price finished off his outing by working around a 2-out Rajai Davis double in the bottom of the 7th to pitch a scoreless inning. He went 7 innings, allowing 3 runs on 6 hits, striking out 6 while walking none. He forced an 11-2 groundout to airout ratio in his own right. After a tough third inning, Price was lights out the rest of the game and left in line for the win.
The Rays got perfect relief from Joel Peralta in the 8th to preserve the 1-run lead and Fernando Rodney lowered his ERA to 0.51 and clinched his 11th save in 11 tries with a 1-2-3 ninth inning with 2 strikeouts as the Rays won the game 4-3, clinching a sweep in the short two-game set and keeping pace with the Orioles for the AL East lead. Price improved to 6-2 with the win while Alvarez (3-3) took the loss. It was a great win for the Rays as Price came back from his one tough inning to pitch a nice game and the Rays took advantage of the extra outs that the Blue Jays gave them to come back and take the lead. The Rays go home to take on the Boston Red Sox, who are coming off a 5-game win streak. Jeremy Hellickson takes on Clay Buchholz on Wednesday night as the Rays look to keep rolling.