Flat Rays drop ugly opener to O's 4-1

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In the second inning, Price allowed a lead-off base hit to Baltimore's Vladimir Guerrero – seriously, that guy gets around! – before striking out the side for arguably his best frame on the evening. An inning later he allowed a double to J.J. Hardy; Price’s throwing error on a pickoff attempt allowed Hardy to advance to third and eventually score on a base hit by Nick Markakis.

In the top of the fifth, a one-out single by Matt Wieters followed by a walk issued to Hardy put two men on for Brian Roberts’ triple, which saw some sloppy fielding out in left field by new Ray Johnny Damon. Still not sure what happened there, other than the 2 earned runs on the play. Roberts scored on Nick Markakis’ sac fly to make it 4-0 after five. Price threw two more innings, both three-up three-down, before taking the rest of the night off.

"We have a chance to be really good but the American League East all got better this year," Damon said. "Baltimore definitely got better; their lineup is pretty solid."


The Rays bats gave the fans some hope a few times. Dan Johnson and B.J. Upton each doubled off the wall in the second and eighth innings, respectively. It looked like a completely ugly night offensively for the Rays, with just three hits through eight innings, until Ben Zobrist led off the bottom of the ninth with a home run to right field on the first pitch he saw. The hope he inspired in fans was short lived, however, as Damon and Evan Longoria struck out in succession before new favorite Manny Ramirez grounded to short to put this one in the books. Winning pitcher Jeremy Guthrie threw eight innings, allowing three hits and a walk while fanning six Rays.

“He was really good," Rays skipper Joe Maddon said about Guthrie. "Just unbelievably on his game, made great pitch after great pitch all night long.”

"Tonight was a proverbial tip of the cap to Guthrie. He was that good," he added via Twitter.

On a side note, what the hell was the non-call on Upton’s rundown in the bottom of the eighth? He was practically shoved to the ground from behind, subsequently caught stealing. In all reality, he likely would have been tagged out anyway but in a world where A.J. Pierzynksi can get away with the stunt he pulled a few years back, this legitimate obstruction call should have been easy to make. Did it change the complexion of the game as a whole? Perhaps. Perhaps not, but it wasn’t a good start to the year in officiating.

All “angry baseball guy” banter aside, it’s game one of 162. It’s going to be a long ride and that context makes this stalled engine of a game a bit easier to take. Fans will have to hope that the defensive miscues and lack of offense were just flukes. Wait to see what the next two games in this series – Saturday’s 7:10 start and Sunday’s 1:10 matinee – show you before jumping ship. Better yet, stick around a few months before forming a doom-and-gloom outlook on the newborn 2011 season.

Follow Kevin on Twitter: @KevinTall

Baseball is back! The sound, the flavors, the Americana. The roar of the crowd. Biting into the first hot dog of the year. The smell of freshly… swept Astroturf. I haven’t been this excited since the regular season started last year, to be honest.

At least the 34,078 Tampa Bay Rays fans in attendance had something to be excited about opening night at Tropicana Field; they could be get their collective blood pumping about baseball in an abstract, general sense if they weren't overly-pleased with the on-field product they witnessed. The Rays lost 4-1, in convincingly sloppy fashion, to the visiting Baltimore Orioles.

There wasn’t much to cheer about in St. Pete, unless you happened to be one of those obnoxious Baltimore fans who yells “Oh!” during the verbally appropriate times in the Star Spangled Banner (Really, folks? That’s ridiculously tacky; it's not cheeky or fun, just disgraceful). If nothing else, the misery was short-lived, as this one cruised by in a brisk 2 hours and 8 minutes, the quickest opening game in team history. Hey, a record is a record!

Ace starting pitcher David Price was not at his best, allowing four earned runs on five hits through seven innings pitched. Price fanned seven batters while walking one. The 63 strikes out of 103 pitches thrown is a respectable ratio and on paper he didn't have a terrible night but the fiery Rays lefty just didn’t look to have his best stuff for Game One.

"It's a rough start," Price said. "It was there and then it wasn't."

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