ST. PETERSBURG – It did not look good for David Price on Saturday night, and that was before the Texas Rangers jumped on him for two quick runs in the first inning.
Price, the Tampa Bay Rays ace left-hander who said he never gets sick, was sick. A high fever and the normally issues that come with a high fever almost forced the Rays to scratch Price from his start and go with Cesar Ramos.
“Everybody was really concerned,” left fielder Matt Joyce said. “Immediately before the game he was having some real health issues. Everybody was looking around like, ‘Oh god, what are we going to do if he can’t go?’ Just a workhouse, if he’s can go, he’s going to go and give you everything he’s got.”
Price managed to give the Rays six innings and his teammates did the rest, rallying for a 5-4 victory in front of 30,364 at Tropicana Field on Wil Myers bobblehead night.
“He wants to be out there, he’s a competitor,” first baseman James Loney said. “He wants to win for the team. He knows how much he means for the team.”
Joyce hit a two-run homer in the fourth inning to cut the Rangers lead to 4-3 and Loney doubled home two runs in the bottom of the eighth as the Rays staged a final four of their own -- scoring the final four runs of the night as they fought back from 3-0 and 4-1 deficits.
“In this game right here I think everybody knew that we were going to make a push,” Joyce said. “Obviously, you don’t know if you’re going to win, but on nights like that, it makes the game a lot of fun.”
Jake McGee, Brandon Gomes and Grant Balfour each pitched an inning in relief of Price and each threw a perfect innings. Gomes picked up the win, and Balfour closed the door on the Rangers during his first save opportunity of the year.
“I definitely wanted to keep us in the game,” Price said. “I wanted to pitch better than what I did.”
A two-out double by Alex Rios gave the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Three straight two-out singles in the second extended the Rangers lead to 3-0.
Yunel Escobar, who signed a two-year contract extension with a club option for a third year earlier in the day, put the Rays on the board with a solo home run to open the bottom of the third.
The Rangers reached Price for another run in the top of the fourth, but Joyce hit his first homer in the bottom of the inning with Loney aboard to bring the Rays within a run. Joyce is batting .538 with a .611 on-base percentage and a .923 slugging percentage through five games. Joyce has five RBI during the first week of the season. It took him 28 games in 2013 to reach his fifth RBI.
Rangers rookie Nick Martinez was making his major league debut. He did a pretty good job of keeping the Rays bats in check. He went six innings and turned a one-run lead over to his bullpen.
“All night long we were just trying, trying, we just can’t catch a break to get over the top,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
That break eventually came in the eighth when Myers drew a leadoff walk against lefty Neal Cotts. Ben Zobrist moved Myers to second with a sacrifice bunt, and with first base now opened, Cotts walked Longoria intentionally to pitch to Loney. The left-handed swinging Loney is a career .296 against lefties. He also hit .331 from the seventh inning on last season.
Loney lined a double into left field to score Myers and Longoria.
“I like it,” Loney said about the Rangers walking Longoria to get to him. “I like when I got another guy on base, more RBI chances. Winning run’s on base, you got to love that.”
Price loved it. He said had the game been played in the afternoon he probably wouldn’t have pitched. But he did and he kept his team in the game, allowing the bullpen and big hitters to do their thing at the end.
When asked how he felt afterwards, Price said, “Better now that we won.”