Bullpen lets opener slip away from Rays
ST. PETERSBURG -- The champagne went flat in the seventh.
That's when the Orioles' bats got loud against the Rays on Tuesday, producing five runs to give Baltimore the lead for good in a 7-4 Opening Day win at Tropicana Field.
Up until that point, the Rays appeared in the midst of a Rays-like clinic celebrating the way they like to play the game.
Reigning American League Cy Young Award winner David Price pitched six innings before handing a 3-2 lead over to Jake McGee to start the seventh.
With the broad-shouldered McGee's fastballs registering in the upper 90s, Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis each singled through the middle with one out to start the decisive rally. After Manny Machado struck out, Adam Jones doubled on an 0-2 pitch to plate both runners, giving the Orioles a 4-3 lead.
"I felt really good, and I just missed with one pitch when I had to make a pitch," McGee said. "I was ahead, 0-2, and it just leaped over the plate a little bit too much. I figured it was the right pitch. He swung through the pitch before like that. It just wasn't in the right location."
Matt Wieters, who had homered, doubled and worked a 13-pitch walk earlier in the game, was intentionally walked to bring the left-handed-hitting Chris Davis to the plate. Rays manager Joe Maddon explained the decision, which resulted in Davis hitting McGee's first pitch into the right-field stands for a three-run homer that gave the Orioles a 7-3 lead.
"That was purely based on [the fact] Wieters had swung the bat so well today, and I thought that Jake could get to Davis there," Maddon said. "I did not envision the homer."
According to Jones, a hitter never wants to be the guy standing in the on-deck circle when the previous batter gets intentionally walked.
"It's like saying, 'All right, we think you're an easier out than this guy.' So you take it upon yourself to go out and get a big knock," Jones said. "And he went out there, first pitch, and tomahawked a 98-mph fastball at his neck. That's C.D."
Davis noted that he felt the Rays were playing matchups in that situation.
"McGee's got a great arm," Davis said. "He throws hard. I was able to get him early, obviously. After throwing four balls right there, I thought that he was going to try to get ahead with a strike, and I just tried to get the barrel to it and he supplied the rest. He's a power guy who throws hard. He's got good stuff."
What made the top of the seventh harder to swallow for the Rays was the fact that they had done so many things well to that point.
Price allowed a two-run homer to Wieters in the first, but he managed to give the Rays five additional scoreless innings. Heading into the bottom of the sixth, Ben Zobrist's solo homer off Orioles starter Jason Hammel had accounted for Tampa Bay's only run. But the Rays' outlook brightened in the sixth, when they employed a small-ball approach.
Kelly Johnson walked to lead off the inning, then took off running with Desmond Jennings at the plate. Jennings slapped a double down the left-field line that allowed Johnson to score.
Sam Fuld bunted Jennings to third to set the table for Zobrist, who flied out to deep center field to score Jennings and give the Rays a 3-2 lead.
Maddon felt good about how the momentum of the game had changed.
"You go to the seventh inning like that, the way that it was lining up, their hitters versus our bullpen," Maddon said. "I kind of liked the whole setup. But they got us. You've got to give them credit, man. They won 93 games for a reason last year, and they got us today. I was talking about [how] their energy's better. They're a good baseball club."
The Rays' defense sparkled throughout the game. Evan Longoria made three highlight-reel gems, and Fuld could claim two -- both diving catches -- but it wasn't enough.
"The defense -- I mean, 'The Longo and Sam Show' today was outstanding," Maddon said. "And even Loney, with the easy pick on the throw by Escobar early in the game. You see how good he is over there. [Ryan] Roberts going to his right -- a lot of good stuff on the defensive side of the ball. ... We played well today, and we did a lot of good things today. They got us in one inning, and that's to their credit."