BOSTON -- Unless the Boston Red Sox and Tampa Bay Rays meet in the playoffs this year, there is no chance of David Price pitching in Fenway Park again until 2014. For fans of the local nine, that’s a good thing.
Price carved up the Red Sox lineup for the second time in five days at Fenway on Monday night, lifting the Rays to a 2-1 win and back into first place in the American League East in a game that featured a 39-minute rain delay and plenty of controversy in the eighth inning.
Tampa Bay had runners all over the bases and Price was utterly brilliant, but the Sox turned three double plays and got a Brandon Snyder solo home run in the sixth to hang around.
Price faced just one batter after the delay and Boston went to work on Joel Peralta, getting runners to second and third on back-to-back doubles. Pinch runner Daniel Nava only advanced from second to third on the second double as he stayed near the bag to possibly tag up if Stephen Drew’s drive to right was caught.
Snyder followed with a fly to left. Sam Fuld caught it and came up firing with a solid throw home. Nava’s foot was clearly on the plate before Jose Molina’s tag, but home-plate umpire Jerry Meals ruled otherwise. The mild-mannered Nava showed as much emotion as we’ve ever seen from him and Red Sox manager John Farrell was ejected for telling Meals what he thought of the call.
Lost in all the late-game drama was the fact that Doubront needed 104 pitches to go just five innings. He allowed two runs on eight hits and three walks, looking very much like the pitcher that struggled mightily with his efficiency before his recent run of success. With Price at his best and Doubront at his most mediocre, much of the game seemed more one-sided than a 2-1 final would indicate.
The Red Sox host Seattle in the first of three Tuesday night. Tampa Bay returns home to host Arizona. The AL East rivals play each other just three more times, Sept. 10-12 at Tropicana Field.
Weather the storm: With this being a makeup game of Thursday’s rainout, some weather-weary folks were mindful of the happenings at Fenway Park. That included a torrential downpour a couple of hours before the game and then the arrival, around the fifth inning, of an awesome cloud formation over the park. One scribe suggested it had the look of the sky in the climactic scene in “Ghostbusters,” and it may have played a part in Jacoby Ellsbury’s horrendous jump on an Evan Longoria drive to begin that inning.
Ellsbury took a solid second before sizing up the shot and racing after the ball. He missed catching up to it by a couple of feet as it fell into the triangle for a double. Longoria would later score the game’s second run, which proved to be decisive.
Price was just about to begin the bottom of the eighth when the rain came again. He returned after the delay but faced just one batter, striking out Jonny Gomes, before Joe Maddon turned to the bullpen.
So why was it so close?: That’s easy. The Rays hit into double plays in the second, third and seventh innings and right fielder Shane Victorino made a handful of big catches, one on a sinking liner to end the fourth and strand a pair of runners and another to take away a two-run homer from Luke Scott in the seventh.
Tampa Bay was 2-for-10 with runners in scoring position and left 10 on base.
Setting the tone: While Price needed just seven pitches to get through the first inning and nine in the second, Doubront was significantly less economical. Double plays in the second and third innings helped Doubront survive the early issues, but Tampa Bay finally broke through with a run in the fourth and another in the fifth.
On the subject of Price’s economy, that was a talking point after his 97-pitch complete game Thursday, and again before this one. Farrell talked about how Price threw strikes early and so often worked from ahead, creating a necessity on the Red Sox's part to be more aggressive.
They were, but like the truly great pitchers, Price hit spots in the zone and kept the hitters off balance, the way one survives while throwing 75 percent of his pitches for strikes.
Snyder sighting: Farrell said that one of the reasons he installed Brandon Snyder at third base in place of Jose Iglesias was to “get a little bit more production out of the bottom of the lineup.”
Snyder’s homer was a glorified pop-up that caught the Pesky Pole on the way down, but that’s more than anyone else was able to muster against Price. Farrell has played lineup hunches well this year.