Game 1 After David Price: Rays, Hellickson Come Up Flat
By Edward Guetti
The Los Angeles Angels won what turned out to be a nail-biter 5-3. The first game ADP–after David Price–was played with an emotional hangover by the Tama Bay Ryas, and it seemed like the older players on the team felt it more than the younger ones. The Rays’ youth movement loaded the bases with none out in the ninth, but the veterans on the team could not take advantage.
Jeremy Hellickson had beaten the Angels three times in a row, but was unable to locate his fastball from the onset. Hellickson walked the first batter he saw, and then left a fastball over the heart of the plate for Mike Trout, who launched his 25th home run of the year. Albert Pujols followed with a rocket off of the top of the left-centerfield wall that went for a double before Erick Aybar drilled another misplaced fastball to score Pujols. The Angels have a very talented lineup, but Hellickson had nothing. Hellickson did recover to an extent from there, with a Josh Hamilton solo homer representing the only other run he allowed in 4.2 innings pitched. That still is far from a satisfactory start.
Angels starter, Matt Shoemaker, a pitcher very much in the mold of Hellickson, sported a low-90s fastball, a mid-70s drop curve, and a good split-changeup at 80 MPH as he shut down the Rays. His location was not much better than Hellickson’s, but thanks to some luck and some resilience with runners in scoring position, a sacrifice fly to Cole Figueroa was the only run he allowed in his first four innings of work.
In the third inning, Matt Joyce put a good at-bat on Shoemaker. Getting two-strikes early, Joyce worked a full-count before singling on a line into right. Evan Longoria promptly followed by popping up the first pitch he saw, a fastball over the inside part of the plate, and then clubbed his bat into the turf in frustration. Luckily for Longoria, he received another chance in the fifth. Joyce doubled down the right field line, advancing Ben Zobrist to third and bringing up Longoria in a key two-out situation.
Longoria anxiously battled in this big spot, taking a questionable breaking ball for a strike, swinging late on a 90 MPH fastball up at his eyes, and just fouling off a mistake changeup that hung way up in the zone and a meaty fastball down the middle. He then hit a grounder to third-baseman David Freese, who mishandled the ball, rushed the throw, and fired the ball wide and out of the reach of Pujols. Zobrist and Joyce scored, but as Longoria was rounding first he tripped over curiously placed first base umpire Larry Vanover and was thrown out at second. It was ruled a hit on the hometown scoreboard for Longoria, and, of course, the umpires are considered to be part of the field of play. It’s a shame that Vanover clipped Longo–otherwise, James Loney would have been up with a chance, at the time, to tie the game at 4. Longoria did eventually get a more legitimate hit in his next at-bat, sitting back and shooting a Joe Smith pitch over Pujols’ head for a double. The Rays hope that he will deliver plenty of those in the near future.
Kirby Yates was ineffective in relief for the Rays, allowing a run in 0.2 innings to make it a 5-3 game even though he had crucial help from a great defensive play by Yunel Escobar and a runner caught stealing by Jose Molina. However, the Rays had a chance to make up for it all in the bottom of the ninth. Angels closer, Huston Street gave up a leadoff hit to Figueroa, and Brandon Guyer had a great at-bat to draw a walk. Then Kiermaier then tapped a chopper to Aybar, but Guyer beat the play at second base, giving the Rays the bases loaded with nobody out. However, Desmond Jennings and Ben Zobrist both struck out before Matt Joyce flew out as the Rays blew their golden opportunity and lost the game.
Whether resulting from the emotional blow dealt upon trading Price, or just because they were running too hot for too long, the Rays simply didn’t have it as Jeremy Hellickson struggled, the offense made Matt Shoemaker look like a world-beater, and the bats let the best chance they were ever going to get slip away in the ninth. Tomorrow, the Rays will hope to rebound as they send out Chris Archer (6-6, 3.37 ERA) to go against C.J. Wilson (8-6, 4.33 ERA) in a 7:10 PM start.