The analytical focus of this site has largely centered on the “pitching backwards” strategy of the Rays rotation this season. That is until David Price comes out throwing gas for eight innings at a time. Following his near shutout last time out, the left-hander was excellent once again tonight.
There was no pitching backwards for Price against the Indians. In fact, there was not much of anything except a mid-to-upper 90s fastball. More than 90% of Price’s 112 pitches were heaters – with the bulk of them located on the outside corner against right-handed batters. When he wasn’t spotting the fastball, he received eight whiffs and was able to induce 10 groundball outs. Even as he crossed the century mark in pitch count, he was hitting 96 MPH on the radar gun.
Price allowed just two runs on five hits against Cleveland. He did not walk a batter and struck out seven. Over his last two starts, Price has faced 58 batters without issuing a walk. He has 17 strikeouts and 17 groundball outs in his last 16.2 innings. On the season, he has 47 strikeouts to just nine walks.
Without the walks, Price has been efficient with his pitch count. He threw 20-plus pitches in an inning once tonight (the 8th). Although we have been busy giving praise to James Shields for his hot start, Price continues to show why he is the staff ace.
After squandering a scoring opportunity in the first inning (two on and no out), the Rays’ offense provided Price with plenty of help. Starting at the top of the lineup, Sam Fuld went 3-4 with a double and a walk. Fuld has been in a slump since late April which has coincided with an increase in flyballs hit. All three of his hits came on the ground in this one. Following his leadoff walk, Fuld quickly moved into scoring position with a steal; Sam Fuld doing Sam Fuld things. Hitting behind him, Ben Zobrist hit his eighth home run of the season and walked twice.
A little bit further down in the order, Tampa Bay’s 4-5-6 hitters - Matt Joyce, B.J. Upton, and Casey Kotchman - combined to go 6-14 with two hits apiece. Kotchman hit a looping liner up the middle in the fourth inning and would later score on a Fuld single. Facing a two-game suspension starting tomorrow, B.J. Upton went 2-5 including a two-RBI double. Because of the suspension, Upton’s road trip ends prematurely, but productive. In the five games away from Tropicana Field, he went 10-23 with 10 RBI.
Batting ahead of Upton and Kotchman, Matt Joyce added two hits – including his fourth home run in his last 10 games. After one hit in his first seven games to start the season, Joyce – the American League leader in hitting – has 13 multi-hit games this season. For comparison’s sake, he had 10 multi-hit games in 77 contests last season. Yeah, he’s doing just fine.