Super Sam Fuld and Johnny Damon delivered the Rays just enough runs on Tuesday. David Price provided the strong outing they expected. But it was what they got from the relief duo of Joel Peralta and Kyle Farnsworth that was the biggest reason they went home happy.
In their first real test since the reconstruction of the bullpen, the veteran newcomers combined to get the final four outs as the Rays beat the Red Sox 3-2, logging their second straight win and third of the season.
"That was awesome," said Price, who snapped a personal four-game losing streak. "They faced four hitters and got four outs. That was exactly what we needed."
Price did just about all he could, holding the Sox to two runs while working into the eighth on another chilly night, throwing 116 pitches. "Love his tenacity," manager Joe Maddon said.
Price would have finished the eighth had Elliot Johnson, who had just moved from shortstop to second, not booted what should have been an inning-ending double play grounder. When Price couldn't finish off Kevin Youkilis, hitting him after being 0-and-2, Maddon decided to open the bullpen gate and see what happened.
Peralta needed just three pitches, getting Jed Lowrie to fly to center then getting a big hug from Price when he got to the dugout.
"That's a great feeling," Peralta said.
Then Farnsworth, who Friday got his first save since June 2008, came on for the ninth, facing three left-handed pinch-hitters.
He struck out Jacoby Ellsbury on three pitches, fell behind J.D. Drew 3-and-0 then came back to get him looking at strike three, then got David Ortiz to fly to right on a nasty 0-and-1 cutter.
"That's a lot of fun," said Farnsworth, who hadn't had more than one save in a season since 2006. "That's what you look forward to in a situation like that, go out there and compete against the best, go out there and have fun. You just have to stay relaxed and stay within yourself. …
"We definitely know what we're doing out there, we just have to keep it going."
So for all the winter wondering, the first reviews on the pen couldn't have gone better.
"I think you're the only one that has any doubts," catcher Kelly Shoppach said. "We feel pretty good about 'em. Yeah, we hadn't put them in a tight spot yet, but we saw what they were able to do in spring training. … We're pretty confident in what they capable of.
"They're competitive. They have (fortitude). They attack. They throw strikes. That's how you have to pitch in the bullpen."
"I thought Joel and Kyle came through in really sterling fashion," Maddon said. "They're veterans, they have good stuff. Sometimes it's just about opportunity to really realize your ceiling. With both of those guys, you're going to get plenty of high-leverage moments. They really handled it emotionally very well. I liked their look. I liked their demeanor. And they threw strikes."
Fuld didn't have quite as big a night as his Monday Fenway debut, but he had a hand in the Rays' three-run fifth off ace Jon Lester. Consecutive one-out singles by Nos. 7-9 hitters Shoppach and the Johnsons, Dan and Elliot, loaded the bases, then Fuld hit a roller toward first just slow enough for Shoppach to race home. Damon, continuing his hot streak, slapped a 1-and-2 pitch to center for two more runs.
Granted it was a meeting to stay out of last place — the first between 2-8 or worse teams since 1918 (Brooklyn Robins vs. Boston Braves) — rather than a battle for first, but it was still Price and Lester, and Rays and Red Sox.
"That's AL East baseball right there," Price said. "Anytime you win, it's fun. But that was fun."