ST. PETERSBURG — I hurried to the Boston Red Sox clubhouse Sunday afternoon. Former Rays ace, current Sox upset person David Price, who pitched well, was speaking with media, which he now only does on days he starts.
Great to hear your voice, David!
Here's one thing Price said:
"They threw the ball well. They played unbelievable defense. They had the big hits when they needed them. That's what you need to win baseball games, and that's what they were able to do."
The Rays spoke up heading into the All-Star break. Brad Miller's bat, silenced most of this season by injuries and lousy, made real noise with his first home run in two months for a 5-3 win to take three out of four from first-place Boston.
Some Rays jumped the dugout fencing when Miller's shot cleared the wall in dead center at the Trop. Rays manager and All-Star coach Kevin Cash might have tried that but for his broken foot. His team did anything but limp into the break.
"That was exciting, man," Cash said.
Yeah, we're just at the All-Star break, but this was a good week for the Rays. A statement week. They followed a split at raucous Wrigley Field by winning the series from Boston before semi-raucous and semi-large crowds (for the Rays) at the Trop. The Rays beat the best Sox starter, Chris Sale, on Thursday. Alex Cobb was lights out Saturday.
And Sunday, after Dustin Pedroia punched a hole in the weekend by taking a 96 mph Chris Archer fastball out for a two-run homer and 3-2 Boston lead in the seventh, the Rays punched back with the kind of rally that said they want to be for real.
"Hell, yeah, we're for real," Miller said.
The Rays are tied with the Yankees for second place in the AL East, just 31/2 games behind the Sox.
More to the point, they broke out of that win-lose-win-lose deal by following a big win with another big win.
"It's huge," Cash said. "We hadn't been that great at doing that. Everybody talks about .500. It feels like we've lingered around there, up, down, up, down, the entire time. You try not to overhype this series, but for us to come out of it to win the series says a lot."
Archer, bound for Miami as an All-Star fill-in, battled his former mentor Price for hegemony for six innings for a 2-1 Rays lead. Still, Archer handed over the lead with that Pedroia homer. Put that in your All-Star duffel bag.
But Sunday was a Rays day.
In the fourth inning, with runners on second and third, Boston's Christian Vazquez lifted a foul ball to right, near the Rays bullpen. Cash went to the corner of his dugout and picked up … the SOUZA PHONE. Next thing we knew, there was Steven Jr., diving headlong to make a spectacular grab for the second out. I can't wait for the movie.
In the sixth inning, All-Star Corey Dickerson made a leaping catch against the wall in left and relayed to Miller, who threw to Logan Morrison at first for an inning-ending double play.
And there was the bottom of the seventh after Boston grabbed the lead.
That man Mallex.
Pinch-hitter Mallex Smith worked a walk, moved to second base on a Peter Bourjos sacrifice and to third on a Souza single — and scored to tie it at 3 when Dickerson lifted a shallow foul ball near the Red Sox bullpen. Boston's Andrew Benintendi should have seriously considered dropping that ball. He caught it.
"All I know is that when it hit his glove, I was gone," Smith said. "I didn't have a care in the world what he did."
Nor did Miller, or the Rays bench, when he hit his two-run shot off Boston reliever Joe Kelly, who had gone 23 consecutive scoreless appearances.
"Today was a huge win," Miller said. "It kind of showed our character a little bit."
A 4-2 week for the Rays. A statement week? It doesn't mean anything if they don't come roaring on a six-game Western trip to Anaheim and Oakland after the break. But it was good stuff.
The Rays made real noise.
Hey, David Price said so.