Seven pitches into the first inning, the Rays had a three-nothing lead on Minnesota. The fast start was followed up by a single run in the top of the fifth, but David Price threw seven strong innings to lead Tampa Bay to a 4-2 win over the Twins.
Price allowed a pair of earned runs on seven hits as he struck out five. Joel Peralta earned a hold in the eighth inning and Fernando Rodney coaxed three ground balls to grab his thirty-fifth save in thirty-six opportunities.
Desmond Jennings led off for the Rays with a game-opening single, B.J. Upton cranked a 425’ home run to left-center. Matt Joyce followed with a four-bagger to right, and it appeared that Minnesota starter Nick Blackburn’s was on the ropes.
Blackburn gave up eleven hits, but only another single run, on Upton’s second homer of the day, in the top of the fifth. He would turn the ball over to the bullpen in the seventh. Four Twins’ relievers would shut down the Rays’ bats, not allowing another hit along the way.
Price earned his fifteenth win with his team-record tenth quality start in a row. The Tampa Bay bullpen continued its tremendous work, not allowing a base runner in the final two innings.
James Shields will be on the mound today for the Rays, seeking his tenth win of the season. Minnesota will counter with 6’3” southpaw Scott Diamond, who is 10-5, with a 2.91 earned-run average. Shields will be hoping to stretch the Rays’ winning streak to six games.
• Ben Zobrist has looked more than comfortable playing shortstop the past three games. He hadn’t played the position since 2009. He’s made a variety of plays, from routine to an athletic spin move on a ball up the middle, and looked comfortable doing it. He is the hidden backbone of the Rays’ defense, adding position/lineup flexibility, not only with his switch-hitting, but with his “switch-gloving” as well.
• B.J. Upton now has three two-homer games in his career, and a dozen long balls this season.
• The Rays are a half-game out of the playoff position at this time, but are surely in the hunt. With the offense swinging the bats better lately and the pitching staff showing its quality depth, both among starters and relievers, the Rays are in familiar territory and a history of knowing how to come from behind.
• Fernando Rodney saved his twentieth straight game, setting a team record. He surpassed Roberto Hernandez and Rafael Soriano, each of whom saved nineteen straight. It’s amazing how the Rays manage to close games out, no matter who takes the ball. The organization knows something about finding shut-down arms and mentalities, and they aren’t sharing it with anyone…
• David Price wasn’t at his very best yesterday, but he was good enough to win. That’s the sign of a true ace – to get the job done when you aren’t at the top of your game. That being said, he allowed no free passes, and dominated the inside corner. And when he dominates the inside corner, it’s easy to understand why he’s 15-4, and a true Cy Young candidate.