Inside The Game: Rays vs. Reds 6/28/11

Post-Game: After all that hard work, David Price did not walk away with a win tonight. Price completed seven shutout innings with 105 pitches, but was back on the mound to start the eighth. The 1-0 lead he had been clinging to quickly evaporated after a leadoff triple and single tied the game up at 1-1. He battled back for two more strikeouts (12 on the night tied a career-high), but gave up the lead on Joey Votto double. He finished the night with 118 pitches thrown (86) strikes including over 75% fastballs. As his night came to a close, Price began throwing more changeups. He threw 14 changeups overall with nine of them coming in the final 20 pitches thrown.  After the game Price said his changeup was really his second pitch tonight, adding that this was the first game he felt he could really say that.

On most night, two runs over 7.2 innings with 12 strikeouts and one walk is good enough for a win; however, Price left in line for the loss. That said, the Rays offense took him off the hook with two runs in the bottom of the eighth inning. With two men on and two out, Reds’ manager Dusty Baker lifted his starter in favor of left-handed reliever Bill Bray. This set up a lefty-on-lefty matchup with Johnny Damon. In his career Bray has been tough on lefties whereas Damon has been rather neutral in his splits.

I noted earlier in the night that the Reds defense plays a very deep outfield. That strategy came back to burn them when Damon dropped a bloop single in between three defenders in short left field scoring pinch-runner Justin Ruggiano along with Sam Fuld came to put Tampa Bay ahead 3-2. The lead would be short lived as Kyle Farnsworth allowed a solo home run to Jay Bruce to start the ninth inning. It was just the second blown save of the season for Farnsworth as well as the second home run allowed.

Farnsworth’s blown save set up the dramatic ending in the ninth inning when Evan Longoria delivered a solo home-run to lift the Rays over the Reds 2-0. According to Johnny Damon the shot was called by B.J. Upton who told his teammates not to worry because Longoria was going deep. On his own go-ahead hit, Damon said he had never faced Bray and actually hit the same pitch he took for a strike one, but happened to put the bat out there and got lucky. “This game is funny. He (Bill Bray) made the pitch he wanted to and I just got lucky” Damon said.

After the game Longoria said he went with batting gloves in his final two at-bats because his hands were hurting after hitting without them for four games. He said the strategy helped him get back his pitch selection which he felt slips during his slumps saying it really hurts your hands to swing at bad pitches..  Longoria also mentioned that he did not take any type of practice swings or batting practice in Houston as he tries to protect his left side that has cost him more than a month of the season.

Update: The Rays took advantage of a rare Johnny Cueto mistake as the Rays’ Johnny Damon took a 1-0 offering from Cueto and deposited into the right field stands in the bottom of the fourth to give Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead.  The team also threatened in the fifth after a leadoff double by Casey Kotchman; however, Cueto showed off his groundball ability with three straight grounders to end the inning.

Although he has mixed in a few curveballs and changeups along the way, David Price has led the way with his fastball. Price has used 90 pitches through six innings with 77 of them being heaters. After a perfect four innings in which he threw 43 pitches, he has used 47 pitches to finish the last two innings. Price lost his perfect game and then his no-hitter in the fifth inning after a Reid Brignac error was followed by a Ramon Hernandez single. In the sixth inning, Price faced some two-out trouble (Brandon Phillips double, Joey Votto walk), but retired Scott Rolen to end the inning after a 9-pitch at-bat.

Update: David Price picked up right where he left off against the Milwaukee Brewers. Price settled down in the latter stages of that game and has been perfect through three innings against the Reds. The lefty struck out four of the first six batters he faced including reigning NL-MVP Joey Votto – who was caught looking at a 97-MPH fastball on the outside corner to end the first inning.  Price went almost exclusively fastball in the first two innings (23 fastballs, 1 slider), but started to mix in his curveball a bit in the third. Still, his fastball is good enough – especially early on – to be dominant without little help.

Unfortunately for the Rays, Johnny Cueto has also been very good.  Cueto was perfect through two innings before allowing a third-inning walk to Sam Fuld. The Rays’ first baserunner was easily erased after Fuld was hung out to dry on what appeared to be a botch hit and run attempt with Reid Brignac at the plate.

Pre-Game: After an all-around disappointing effort on Monday night, the Rays look to rebound with David Price on the mound. Price is coming off a strong eight-inning, 10-strikeout effort in his last time out. He will be opposed by Johnny Cueto who is 5-2 with a 1.63 ERA on the season.

Cueto is a talented pitcher, but has benefited from some statistics that would classify his 1.63 ERA as partially based on luck; most notably batting average on balls in play and the percentage of runners left-on base. Nonetheless, he does not walk many batters, keeps the ball on the ground, and more importantly keeps it in the yard – at least in recent memory.

Despite his lack of height (listed at 5-foot-10), the Reds’ righty can still bring it in the mid-90s. As mentioned, keeps the ball on the ground – a new trick he has picked up in 2011 thanks in part to a two-seam fastball. He has been vulnerable to left-handed batters which is why the Rays will run out a lineup featuring seven lefties. Here is that lineup:

Damon – DH

Zobrist – 2b

Longoria – 3b

Joyce – RF

Kotchman – 1B

Upton –CF

Jaso –C

Fuld – LF

Brignac -SS