The Rays and Orioles traded blows in the latter stages of Saturday’s game before Tampa Bay landed the knockout punch(es) in the 11th round inning. At one point, the Rays were up 3-0 and held an 86% chance of victory in the fifth inning. Fast forward a bit and the Orioles started the ninth inning with a win expectancy of 91%. In the end, the Rays top-heavy lineup was just too much for the Baltimore pitching staff culminating in a 7-5 victory. There was a lot in between, so let’s go…
David Price pitched a decent game against all the Orioles not named Mark Reynolds. The Rays’ lefty tossed six innings, allowing four runs on eight hits and two home runs. Three of the four runs against Price came off the bat of Reynolds who accounted for both home runs he allowed.
Tim Welke’s strikezone was inconsistent at best in this one. There were some glaring miscalls, but somehow Price was able to walk just one batter while striking out six. As he nears 100 innings on the season (97.1), he has just 15 walks to 89 strikeouts.
Price went with a heavy fastball selection against the Orioles, but only induced six total swings and misses. After using his changeup often against the Angels on Monday, he threw just seven off-speed pitches. He did, however, use his breaking ball quite a bit (25 curveballs, 15 strikes).
Offensively, the Rays cranked out 15 hits. Meanwhile 13 of those 15 hits came off the bat of four players. Leadoff man, Johnny Damon, went 2-6 with two runs scored. Directly behind Damon, Ben Zobrist had a four-hit night with all four hits going for extra bases. Zobrist had three doubles as well as a critical triple in the ninth inning. He touched home plate four times including the tying runs in the eighth and ninth innings and the go-ahead run in the 11th inning. After hitting 40 extra-base hits all of last season, Zorilla has 33 extra-base hits through 63 games in 2011.
The other seven hits from this group came from Evan Longoria and Casey Kotchman. All three of Longoria’s hits resulted in runs for the Rays including the single that scored Zobrist in extra-innings. Longoria failed to “get the man in” in the ninth inning, but redeemed himself with the game winner two frames later. Longoria also reached base on a walk.
Hitting fifth in the order, Kotchman went 4-6 with two RBI. He started the game 0-2, but ripped off four-straight hits including game-tying hits in the eighth and ninth. He got an assist on a Robert Andino error in the eighth, but gets all the credit for his two-out single in the ninth that tied the game. With the Rays leading 6-5 in the 11th, he laced a double in to the right-center field gap which scored a hustling Longoria from first. It looked like Kotchman may have been coming down to earth after starting the road trip 4-24; however, it appears as if the “Kotch Rocket” was just waiting to refuel in Baltimore.
Although they combined to go 1-11, Justin Ruggiano and B.J. Upton deserve credit for a pair of fantastic outfield catches. Upton made an over the shoulder catch in deep center field, while Justin Ruggiano took away a home run in the seventh inning.
For the most part, the Rays bullpen was fantastic in relief of Price. The quartet of J.P. Howell, Cesar Ramos, Juan Cruz, and Kyle Farnsworth combined for four scoreless innings allowing just one baserunner. Sandwiched in between the solid work, Joel Peralta struggled in the eighth inning as he allowed the Orioles to go-ahead on the strength of two hits and two walks.
It’s hard to criticize the bullpen usage given the results; however, it appeared as if Joe Maddon was holding back Kyle Farnsworth for the save situation which is bad process in my book. Cesar Ramos started the ninth which made sense given the left-handed bat of Nick Markakis. I’ll even give Ramos a chance against Adam Jones who is a reverse-split righty. Ramos was left in to face Vlad Guerrero to end the ninth and successfully retired the left-handed Felix Pie in the 10th.
From there he was relieved by Juan Cruz who made quick work of right-handed batters Craig Tatum and Mark Reynolds in the 10th inning. The work of Cruz and Ramos allowed Maddon to “save” Farnsworth for the save. Meanwhile, had one of them made a mistake, the game would have ended without the Rays using their best reliever. Alas, this is just proof the process does not always have to be correct to get a favorable result. Let’s just not make a habit of it.