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Rays edge Orioles in tense series opener

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Published:   |   Updated: August 20, 2013 at 08:00 AM

BALTIMORE — Manager Joe Maddon said the Tampa Bay Rays rolled out their prevent defense Monday night against the Orioles. Played the safeties deep, funneled everything to the middle and kept the opposition out of the end zone.

But you know what the prevent defense does, right?

“Prevents wins,” Maddon said.

“Except in baseball.”

The Rays won 4-3 on a gorgeous night at Camden Yards to keep pace with the first-place Red Sox. The loss also dropped the third-place Orioles 4 1/2 games behind the wild card-leading Rays in that race for those playoff spots.

It was a late-August game that had a late-September feel.

The Orioles, so good last season in one-run games, had runners in scoring position in six of the nine innings but couldn't cover those last 90 feet.

“Our guys did not give in,” Maddon said. “I loved it.”

David Price went five innings and picked up his seventh win despite being in trouble in each of his last four innings.

Jake McGee picked up Joel Peralta and recorded four outs, and Fernando Rodney was able to finish the Orioles off in the ninth inning for his 28th save.

Maddon described the win as “thick,” which is what you get when you combine tense with awkward and trepidation.

The Orioles had runners on base in every inning. They totaled 10 hits against Price from the second to the fifth inning.

They left 15 runners on base, including nine in scoring position. They were 2-for-14 with runners on second and/or third.

“That was prevent defense the entire night,” Maddon said.

Evan Longoria began the scoring with a two-out homer in the first inning, his 25th of the season. Longoria now has four seasons of at least 25 home runs, tying Carlos Peņa for the most in team history.

The Rays made it 2-0 in the second inning when Kelly Johnson's two-out single scored Yunel Escobar.

But the Orioles came back, tying the score with solo runs in the second and third innings.

Danny Valencia, called up from Triple A earlier in the day because he owns Price, doubled home a run in the second inning when Desmond Jennings couldn't catch his line drive at the center field wall.

Matt Wieters doubled in another run in the third inning.

Valencia entered the night 7-for-10 against Price for his career, and improved to 9-for-12 with an infield single to start the fourth inning.

J.J. Hardy's single to start the second inning began a stretch where the Orioles totaled 10 hits in a four-inning span against Price, putting the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner in a jam in each inning, but Price pitched his way out of each spot.

Price left a runner at third base in all four of those innings. He left the bases loaded in the fifth, which was his last inning.

“That's the whole thing about a veteran kind of a guy,” Maddon said. “He's not going to give in to the moment right there. They're going to grind it out. They know they're going to get through it if they make some pitches. That was outstanding.”

Price threw 99 pitches in his five innings, which were more than he needed in each of his three complete games. He allowed 10 hits for the third time this season, but only the first time since May 4 at Colorado.

“It's the most draining it has been in a while,” Price said. “I felt that's the best I've been in my last three outings. This (Orioles) team is tough. That's why they're in the position they're in right now. They're still fighting for September baseball just like we are.”

Price's five innings pitched tied his season low. It was also the first time the Rays won this season when Price did not pitch at least seven innings.

In fact, Price's five-inning outing snapped his streak of consecutive outings of at least seven innings at nine.

“I thought it was pretty good, to be honest,” he said.

Why not?

The Orioles offense kept coming at Price and the bullpen, yet the Rays did not break.

It was the first time since Aug. 7, 2007, against the Mariners, that the Orioles had 15 hits but scored only three runs.

“I thought I made some really good pitches, they fouled them off and waited for a pitch they could put a good swing on,” Price said. “That's what they did. That's why they are in the position they are right now, because their hitters are tough.”

The Rays took a 4-2 lead in the fourth inning when Matt Joyce homered over the high wall in right field with Escobar on first base, The Rays had a chance to add to that lead in the seventh inning when Jose Molina doubled down the right field line. Jennings walked, and both runners advanced on a wild pitch, but Ben Zobrist struck out to end the inning.

Jamie Wright replaced Price and pitched a scoreless sixth inning, thought it didn't lack for drama.

Brian Roberts started the inning with a line drive to left field that Joyce caught with an over-the-shoulder grab on the warning track. Wright then walked Manny Machado to bring the trying run to the plate. But Wright pitched out of the jam with a couple of groundouts.

Peralta came on in the seventh inning to face Wieters, Hardy and Nick Markakis. Wieters homered on Peralta's fourth pitch and Valencia and Steve Pearce had two-out singles to chase Peralta.

McGee came on and got the final out when he needed just one pitch to induce Brian Roberts to hit into an inning-ending force out.

“It was all about Jake,” Maddon said. “Jake, four big outs against some really tough parts of the lineup. Gets a big punch out (strikeout). That was outstanding.”

Rodney allowed a leadoff single to start the ninth, but Molina threw out pinch-runner Alexi Cassila trying to steal second for the first out of the inning.

“J-Mo makes maybe the throw of the year,” Maddon said.

The Rays lead the season series between the two teams 8-5 and have won six of the last seven.

“Both teams came to win,” Maddon said, “and we got lucky by one run.”

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