BOSTON — Of all that went wrong for the Rays in Friday's 12-2 loss to the Red Sox — and with former teammate Kelly Shoppach getting three hits, scoring three runs and stealing his first career base, there was plenty — the most disappointing had to be the performance of starter David Price, who lasted only three innings after throwing 83 pitches.
"Absolutely, it's unexpected," pitching coach Jim Hickey said. "You've seen David as long as I've seen him, and that's probably the first time that's ever happened where it's just been three innings of an extremely high pitch count."
Reassuring to the Rays (4-3) was that Price said he felt fine physically. Frustrating was that they felt he was throwing well. "David actually had really good stuff," manager Joe Maddon said. "He had a great fastball (Friday)."
So what was the issue?
Primarily, a lack of command of his fastball, as 36 of his 83 pitches were balls (after 47 of 107 were in his first start). "That's my biggest thing," Price said.
Beyond that, he didn't have much in the way of an explanation. "I felt good today, just didn't have it," Price said. "That's part of it. I'm going to have 33-34 starts this year, and there's going to be some starts where I don't have it. My body feels good, my arm feels good, it just wasn't there today."
Maddon decided he had seen enough after Price's third inning, a 39-pitch mess that started with Shoppach sticking his left arm into a 2-and-2 pitch — "That's one of his best plays," Maddon said — and ended with a 3-1 Boston lead.
"Once David didn't go back out, I kind of sensed it changed the feel," shortstop Reid Brignac said. "Obviously we want him to go five, six, seven, eight innings every time, but that's not going to happen."
As little as the Rays were doing against Sox starter Josh Beckett (three baserunners after a second-inning run), the game, thanks to three solid innings from Wade Davis, was actually close at 4-1, until the eighth. That's when relievers Joel Peralta, who Maddon acknowledged is "not comfortable yet," and Josh Lueke, who was demoted to Triple A after the game, combined to give up eight runs, turning the 101st opening day at Fenway Park into a celebration for the Red Sox.
"It was a good baseball game that went bad at the end," Maddon said.
The Rays felt their lack of offense (six hits total, ending with Ben Zobrist's ninth-inning homer) was more a result of bad luck (on Friday the 13th) on well-struck balls than bad hitting, though their approach was curious. They saw less than 10 pitches in four innings, including the fifth, sixth and seventh, and six hitters swinging at the first pitch.
"I was not displeased with our at-bats," Maddon said. "It was kind of a nonfortuitous day on our part."
And it was quite a day for Shoppach, who had only two three-hit games in two seasons with the Rays, as he stood in the Boston clubhouse holding the actual base he stole and is planning to have mounted in the sixth. His slide, almost 10 feet short of the bag, will long be a topic of conversation with his former teammates.
"It was awesome," he said. "I know those guys are happy for me to have a good day any time. It's a good group of guys, and I know they didn't want it to happen against them. But I made some good relationships over there, and I'm sure I'll get some text messages. I probably already have about some of the stuff that went on on the field."
It certainly was an unusual day, with Shoppach the prime topic.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]