Loney Delivers In Eighth, Balfour In Ninth Rays Defeat Rangers 5-4
The Tampa Bay Rays never led the Texas Rangers until the bottom of the eighth inning when James Loney delivered a 2-run RBI double to put the Rays on top 5-4. Grant Balfour entered the game in the top of the ninth and took care of the Rangers in order to earn his first save of the year and preserve the victory.
David Price was coming off his first opening day win of his career against the Toronto Blue Jays in which he carried a shutout into the eight inning before allowing a 2-run homer to pinch hitter Erik Kratz.
He was making his first start against the Texas Rangers since tossing a complete game in the Rays 5-2 Game 163 victory last September 30th. In that game he allowed just two earned runs on seven hits. He had gone a career high six consecutive starts dating back to last September 10th versus the Boston allowing two earned runs or less.
He also was a question mark right up to game time as he battled the flu all day yesterday. If he were unable to go he’d have been replaced by Cesar Ramos.
In the end he gutted through six innings allowing four earned runs on nine hits striking out six and walking none. Jake McGee took over for him in the seventh inning and worked a scoreless frame and got a nice bruise to the short ribs on a comebacker to the mound.
Brandon Gomes came in to work the eighth inning and retired the side in order in picking up his first win of the year and Grant Balfour worked the ninth to pick up his first save.
The Rangers didn’t wait around to take advantage of the ailing Price or to match their output from last September putting a pair of runs on the board on three hits and forcing Price to throw 27 pitches. Both runs came on a 2-out double by Alex Rios to score Shin-Soo Choo and Elvis Andrus who has both singled. Andrus was able to move into scoring position by stealing second the pitch prior to Rios’ double.
Texas extended their lead to 3-0 on three straight 2-out singles by Josh Wilson, Shin-Soo Choo, and Elvis Andrus. The rally also extended Price another 21 pitches.
The Rays were facing right hander Nick Martinez who was making his major league debut. He worked six innings allowing three runs on four hits striking out three and walking three. Jason Frasor came in to work the seventh and gave way to Neal Cotts who gave up the 2-run double to James Loney and took the loss.
Yunel Escobar who earlier in the day had agreed to a 2-year contract extension before the game stepped into the batters box to lead off the bottom of the third innings and deposited a long home run to left to cut the lead to 3-1.
David Price was unable to keep the Rangers from answering the Rays run and allowed a sacrifice fly to Shin-Soo Choo to score Robinson Chirinos and the Rangers had regained their three run cushion.
The Rays continued to chip away at the lead and in the bottom of the fourth Matt Joyce blasted a w-run home run to cut the lead to 4-3.
The Rays threatened in the bottom of the seventh inning off Jason Frasor. Matt Joyce singled to lead off the inning and advanced to third on a pinch hit single by Logan Forsythe who was thrown out trying to extend it to a double.
With the tying run 90-feet away manager Ron Washington elected to pull his infield in with Yunel Escobar at the plate. Escobar grounded to Elvis Andrus for the second out of the inning leaving it up to David DeJesus.
DeJesus sent a lazy foul ball down the right field line and into foul territory but right fielder Michael Choice overran the ball and it fell giving DeJesus new life. He nearly drove the run in with a soft dribbler toward shortstop but Elvis Andrus charged, scooped, and fired a bullet to first baseman Prince Fielder for the final out.
The Rays mounted another rally in the bottom of the eighth against lefty Neal Cotts. Wil Myers led the inning off with a walk and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Ben Zobrist. Ron Washington elected to walk Evan Longoria intentionally to bring James Loney to the plate.
The Rays entered the bottom of the eighth inning trailing the Texas Rangers 4-3 with 1-out but had Wil Myers standing at second base and Evan Longoria at first base with James Loney in the batters box.
Loney who had already doubled and drawn two walks sent a line drive double into the gap in left center field to plate both Myers and Longoria to give the Rays the 5-4 lead – their first of the game.
The go ahead double set up the first save opportunity of the year for Grant Balfour who retired Leonys Martin on a fly ball to center, Mitch Moreland on a pop out to catcher, and got Shin-Soo Choo to ground out to second to end the game.