When the night started I wondered aloud, why can’t David Price beat these guys? I sat there critiquing the Rays’ approach at the plate as they stranded runners and failed to score. At the end of night I was still thinking those same things. As I watched the Red Sox pile up runs on the Blue Jays I also watched the Rays fall to the Orioles, 4-2.
The Rays got started by leaving Evan Longoria at second after a two out double. The Orioles countered in their half by capitalizing on Rays mistakes. The first was Price giving up a double to J.J. Hardy. He came around to score on an error by Sean Rodriguez on a Nick Markakis’ grounder. In the second inning, the Rays loaded the bases with nobody out and could not scratch out a run. John Jaso struck out and Rodriguez followed with a double play grounder to short. The highlight of that second inning came when Johnny Damon stole the 400th base of his career after leading off with a single.
While the Rays were missing opportunities, David Price was locking down the Orioles’ hitters. He retired 12 out of the 13 batters he faced in the second through the fifth innings, including striking out the side in the fourth. The Rays finally came through with some offense in the sixth. After a B.J. Upton walk, Longoria yanked a breaking ball over the fence in left and the Rays were up 2-1.
Just like his last outing against the Orioles though, it was the seventh inning that would cost Price a chance at victory. The trouble started with a one out walk to Nolan Reimold. He stole second, but Price came back to strike out Ryan Adams. Then the O’s did what the Rays had been unable to do, get a clutch hit with runners in scoring position. Pinch hitter Jake Fox came through with a two out double and tied the game at two. Joe Maddon went to the bullpen and brought in Juan Cruz, who got Robert Andino to ground to short and end the threat.
The Rays came back in the eighth only to squander another chance. Upton singled to lead off the inning, but with him at first, Longoria struck out. Ben Zobrist came up and Upton stole second. Unfortunately he would get no further as Zobrist grounded out to first and Johnny Damon struck out to end the inning. In the bottom of the eighth, Maddon went to J.P. Howell to keep the score tied. Howell quickly retired the first two hitters but then gave up a single to Vladimir Guerrero. The O’s brought in Adam Jones to pinch run for Guerrero and his presence obviously bothered Howell. After three straight pickoff attempts, Wieters took a 1-1 changeup deep to left and Baltimore was up 4-2.
The Rays went down in order in the ninth and the game was over. One game shouldn’t mean as much as it felt like this one did tonight. But they had the lead in the seventh inning and were unable to hang on against an inferior team. These are games the Rays have to win and can’t afford to lose. With the Red Sox win over the Blue Jays, the Rays now fall to four games back in the wildcard with one more game in Baltimore and the series against Boston looming on the horizon.