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August 22, 2014

What You Need to Know

August 22, 2014

by Chris Mosch



The Thursday Takeaway
When David Price takes the mound, the Rays know better than any team the dominance of which the hard-throwing left-hander is capable. Price turned in countless such outings over his six-plus seasons in Tampa Bay, but on Thursday his former teammates were on the other end of one of his best starts. Fortunately for the Rays, they caught an early break and got a stellar outing from their new ace to ruin Price’s homecoming at Tropicana Field.

After receiving a standing ovation prior to his first pitch at the Trop, Price started the game by getting Desmond Jennings to pop out to second base. His first pitch to the next batter, Ben Zobrist, was hit for a routine grounder to the shortstop Eugenio Suarez, who proceeded to airmail the throw over the head of first baseman Victor Martinez for a one-base error. Next up was Brandon Guyer, who laced a 1-2 cutter that had been left over the heart of the plate into the right-center gap for an RBI triple. The southpaw buckled down and fanned Evan Longoria and Wil Myers to end the inning down by just a run.

Guyer’s triple turned out to be the last time that a Tampa Bay batter would reach base, as Price proceeded to retire the final 23 Rays he faced. The Vanderbilt product pounded the outer third of the zone with his live, mid-90’s fastball and kept his former teammates off balance with his changeup. Since being shipped to Detroit, Price has leaned more on his changeup, a trend that continued against an all righty/switch-hitting Tampa Bay lineup. Price went to the changeup on 29 of his 100 offerings and garnered 22 strikes, including five of the swing-and-miss variety.

Price didn’t miss his target often and, in addition to minimizing hard contact, he didn’t issue a single free pass during the outing. Not only did he not allow a walk, but he didn’t reach a single three-ball count, joining Corey Kluber and Josh Collmenter as the only pitchers to boast that accomplishment during a complete game this season. The closest the Rays got to a second hit was in the fifth inning, when Torii Hunter robbed Sean Rodriguez of extra bases with this terrific leaping catch at the wall:



However, Price’s complete-game one-hitter didn’t require a trip to the mound in the ninth inning because his former rotationmate Alex Cobb twirled a gem of his own, shutting out the Tigers over seven innings before the bullpen closed out a 1-0 win.

A walk to Alex Avila and a single to Suarez were the only blemishes on Cobb’s line through the first six innings, as the right-hander headed into the seventh with 84 pitches and a one-run lead. Hunter led off the seventh with an opposite-field double just beyond the reach of a diving Ben Zobrist and then advanced to third moments later on a Miguel Cabrera groundout. Joe Maddon decided to intentionally walk Victor Martinez—who had put the nail in his club’s coffin the previous day with a grand slam—to bring up J.D. Martinez, who had been spending his 27th birthday trying to figure out how to connect with Cobb’s split-changeup.

In their first matchup of the day, Cobb started Martinez off with a low curveball, but got him to swing and miss at a split-change on his hands for strike one. After a fastball that appeared to catch the outside black was called for ball two, Cobb attacked Martinez with two more inside split-changes that the Detroit right-hander whiffed at for his first strikeout. The next time up was more of the same for Martinez, who took a split-change away for strike one, but fanned at two more split-changes on his hands later in the at-bat before his long walk back to the dugout.

With one out and the tying run 90 feet away, Cobb got Martinez to chase at a first-pitch split-change low and in. Martinez came up empty on a second one two pitches later. When Cobb tried to tempt Martinez with two more in the dirt, the outfielder didn’t bite. However, he couldn’t lay off the fifth split-change of the at-bat and went down swinging for the second out of the inning. Here’s the pitch sequence courtesy of Fox Sports Florida…



…and here’s Martinez, not too pleased about his eighth swing-and-miss in three at bats against Cobb’s nasty offering.



Cobb would get Nick Castellanos to fly out shortly after to avert the scoring threat and bring an end to his day at 101 pitches. In addition to Martinez’ eight whiffs on the split-change, Cobb generated an additional six swing and misses with the pitch and three more with his fastball. His final line over seven innings included two hits, a pair of walks (one intentional) and six punchouts.

In relief of Cobb was Brad Boxberger, who allowed a one-out double to Suarez in the eighth. Up next was Rajai Davis, who hit a bloop into shallow right center. Kevin Kiermaier, who had just entered the game as a defensive replacement, came charging in from right field to make…

The Defensive Play of the Day



Kinsler would strike out to end the inning and Jake McGee dodged a one-out single by Miguel Cabrera in the ninth to earn the save. It was the first time that the Rays have ever won a game with only one hit and just the third time since 1914 that a team has won a game with one hit and zero walks.

While there are tough-luck losses, the loss that Price endured yesterday reached a historic level of bad fortune; per the Baseball Reference Play Index, Price became the first pitcher in the last century to toss a complete-game of at least eight innings, allow only one baserunner, and still take the loss.

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