It would read like an interesting story – a tale of second chances, mistakes, and a shot at redemption, finally ending in heartbreak. Unfortunately, instead of being a tale of fiction, that could be used as a synopsis for the tonight’s Rays game against the Baltimore Orioles.
The game started out positively for the Rays, as Desmond Jennings led off the game with a home run, the second time that he had done so this series. One out later, Evan Longoria also homered, putting the Rays up 2-0 before David Price had even taken the mound. Tampa loaded the bases in the top of the second with one out, with Jennings driving in James Loney with a sacrifice fly to extend the lead to 3-0. They reloaded the bases after a walk, but Ben Zobrist fouled out to end the threat.
The Orioles took advantage of a couple of Rays miscues in the bottom of the inning. Matt Wieters led off with a double, and scored on a base hit by Chris Davis, who can now officially be referred to as a Rays Killer. J.J. Hardy followed with what appeared to be a double play ground ball, but Yunel Escobar dropped the ball on the transition to his hand for the relay. After a fly ball for the second out, Nolan Reimold made the Rays pay for the gaffe by tying the game with a two run home run.
Tampa had a break go in their favor in the top of the third. After putting runners on first and second with one out, Loney grounded into what appeared to be an inning ending double play. However, Hardy threw the relay into the stands, plating a run to put the Rays back in front 4-3. That score held up until the bottom of the fifth, when Alexi Castilla doubled with two outs. An infield single off the bat of Nick Markakis put runners on first and third, and Manny Machado followed with a double. Markakis was thrown out attempting to score, but the damage was done as the game was tied at 4-4.
Jose Molina put the Rays in front yet again in the top of the sixth, hitting a home run to center to put Tampa up 5-4. That home run held up until the bottom of the seventh, when Hardy led off the inning with a double. Price was then lifted, despite having thrown only 84 pitches in the game at that point. Jake McGee came in, and gave up a drive to deep left to Steve Pearce, putting Baltimore up 6-5. Price gave up five earned runs on eight hits in his 6+ innings of work, striking out six. Even though all of those runs were earned, and the Rays were not charged an error, Price definitely did not receive a lot of help from his defense.
At this point, the Orioles had to be feeling pretty good about their chances, as they had one of the top bullpens in baseball last season. Darren O’Day entered the game, and got a quick out. Then Loney continued his offensive explosion, belting a game tying home run to right center. The Rays appeared to have a chance to take the lead in the top of the ninth, after Jennings singled to lead off the inning. However, a strikeout and a caught stealing quickly ended the threat. Tampa appeared to have another threat in the top of the tenth, with runners on first and second with one out, but Troy Patton managed to escape the threat unscathed.
Then came the bottom of the tenth. Markakis started the inning innocently enough with a single. Brandon Gomes was brought in, and Machado attempted to bunt Markakis over. His bunt stayed just fair, and he beat out the throw for an infield hit. Adam Jones followed with a bullet off the wall in right, but Markakis held up. It appeared as though Jones, who had rounded second, did not tag the base heading back to first, but he was ruled safe on the appeal. In the end, the out was irrelevant, as Wieters hit the first pitch he saw from Gomes for a game winning grand slam.
After all of the chances the Rays had, and how they fought back, this loss was truly painful. They managed to put five runs up in support of Price, only to watch sloppy play hand those runs right back. The bullpen, aside from Joel Peralta, continued to struggle. In the end, the Rays essentially looked like the antithesis of the type of ballclub they have come to be known as – a team with great pitching and defense.
On the positive side, Loney remained hot, finishing a triple short of the cycle as he was 3-5 with two runs scored and an RBI. Jennings was 3-4 with two RBIs and a run scored.