David Price made the most of Tampa Bay’s five-run first inning.
Price scattered four hits over 7 1-3 innings, Hideki Matsui homered and the Rays beat the Baltimore Orioles 5-0 on Friday night to move into first place in the AL East.
”The offense made it a lot easier for me going out and getting five runs,” Price said. ”That takes a lot of pressure off our defense and takes a lot of pressure off me.”
Price (7-3), who struck out five and walked two, retired his first 13 batters. He got some defensive help when right fielder Matt Joyce made a full-extension, tumbling backhanded catch on J.J. Hardy’s drive to end the fourth.
Price was charged with a fourth hit after a postgame scoring change that gave Wilson Betemit – the left-hander’s final batter – a single on a grounder first called an error on second baseman Ben Zobrist.
”He’s good, period,” Baltimore manager Buck Showalter said of Price.
After Luke Scott hit a two-run single and Sean Rodriguez added a run-scoring bunt, Matsui belted a two-run homer off Wei-Yin Chen (4-2) to make it 5-0 in the first. Matsui, who was promoted from Triple-A Durham on Tuesday, has homered in two of his three games with Tampa Bay.
”Not just me, but everybody else was hitting in that inning,” Matsui said through a translator. ”I was glad I was able to come through in that situation. It was a pitch that caught the inner part of plate, and I was able to put a pretty good swing on it.”
Jake McGee replaced Price and struck out both batters he faced in the eighth. The Orioles loaded the bases with one out in the ninth on three singles against Burke Badenhop, but Fernando Rodney struck out Mark Reynolds and got a grounder from Chris Davis for his 17th save.
Baltimore has lost six in a row and nine of 11.
Matt Wieters, mired in a 3-for-43 slide, got the Orioles’ first hit when he grounded a single into right field with one out in the fifth.
”That’s the last thing I was thinking about,” said Price about a perfect game. ”I’m just trying to put up as many zeroes as possible. He hit a good pitch and he did what he could with it.”
Baltimore ran itself out of at least one run and possibly a big inning in the sixth. Hardy hit a fly to deep center with the bases loaded, but before Bill Hall reached home from third, B.J. Upton threw Steve Tolleson out attempting to advance from first to second for an inning-ending double play. Since the third out occurred before Hall crossed the plate, no run scored on the play.
”That’s not the game,” Showalter said. ”The game was Price, the first inning. Stevie is a good fundamental player. He just wanted to make something happen for our club. It’s one of those things he knew as soon as he did it (it was a mistake).”
Chen gave up five runs and five hits in 5 2-3 innings. The left-hander didn’t allow a hit after Matsui’s first-inning homer.
”First inning, my fastball, I couldn’t command it,” Chen said through a translator. ”Off-speed pitches were out of the zone. I didn’t do my job.”
NOTES: Baltimore placed OF Nick Markakis (fractured right wrist) on the 15-day disabled list and purchased Hall’s contract from Triple-A Norfolk. Markakis had surgery on Friday and is expected to be out three to four weeks. … Rays 3B Evan Longoria (partial tear left hamstring) could be ready to start a minor league rehab assignment by mid-June. … Orioles CF Adam Jones, hit on the left wrist by a pitched ball Wednesday, was in the starting lineup and went 2 for 4. He had a 20-game hitting streak end on Wednesday. … Tampa Bay OF Desmond Jennings (sprained left knee) is expected to rejoin the team during a six-game road trip next week.