How do you respond to being on the imperfect side of a perfect game? How about four runs on six hits including a home run during a span of 18 pitches? That’s exactly what the Rays offense did against Angels’ starter Dan Haren in the bottom of the fourth inning. By the end of the fifth, Tampa Bay had seven runs on eight hits; three of them home runs including solo shots by Ben Zobrist and B.J. Upton along with a two-run shot by Evan Longoria.
Speaking before the game, manager Joe Maddon did not seem fazed by Wednesday’s perfect game, saying he was actually more upset about how the team lost on Tuesday – blowing ninth inning lead – than he was about the perfect game.
On Thursday evening, Haren lost the perfect game, no-hitter, and shutout all on one pitch. In the bottom of the second, Zobrist blasted his 13th home run of the season to put the Rays up 1-0. A B.J. Upton solo home run in the fourth put the Rays up 2-0 which was followed by three more runs in the span of nine pitches. With Haren out of the game, Longoria belted his fifth home run of the season – his first since returning for the disabled list – in the top of the fifth to push the lead to seven runs.
Although he was not perfect, Rays’ ace David Price turned in another fantastic start. It was the 11th straight start in which he went at least seven innings, notching a quality start in each of those games as well. Using a fastball/cutter combination, Price used the heat to freeze Angels hitters.
Earlier this week, R.J. Anderson noted that Price loves to use his fastball and cutter with two strikes. This was the case once again versus the Angels.
Starting with leadoff hitter – and American League MVP front-runner – Mike Trout to lead off the game, Price used three straight fastballs before stunning Trout with a 93 MPH cutter for called strike three. In the sixth inning, Price started Trout off with a pair of cutters before tossing him two mid-90s fastballs. With the count 1-2, Price snapped off a 91 MPH cutter for another called third strike.
In total, Price tossed seven shutout innings, allowing just three hits and two walks. He has thrown 16 shutout innings against the Angels this season. He struck out eight batters; five of them on cutters. In addition to the strikeouts, he induced seven groundballs outs including his 18th double play of the season.
With five wins in the first seven games of a 10-game road trip, the Rays have already guaranteed themselves a .500 road trip at minimum. That said with three games left, the team can put some distance between themselves and the Angels in the wildcard race.