ST. PETERSBURG – The Tampa Bay Rays’ winning streak came to an end Sunday, came to end with one mighty swing from Boston’s David Ortiz that was followed by an exaggerated bat flip and a leisurely stroll around the bases, timed on some stop watches at 29.3 seconds.
It was enough for a 3-2 Red Sox victory and enough for Rays starter Chris Archer, who served up the hanging change-up, to question Ortiz’s character after the game.
And for Ortiz to take another shot at Archer from the visitors’ clubhouse as he prepared for the charter flight back to Boston.
The Red Sox spoiled the Rays’ “Christmas in July” celebration that drew 25,221 to Tropicana Field and prevented them from closing within one game of .500.
The difference was Ortiz’s three-run homer in the third inning that landed in the right-field seats.
Ortiz, booed before every at-bat throughout the three-game series, enjoyed his 29th career home run at the Trop.
When asked afterward what he thought of Ortiz’s home run trot, Archer said, “I think it was a perfect example of what (David) Price said.”
Archer was referring to comments made by teammate David Price in May, when the left-hander said Ortiz thinks he’s “bigger than the game.”
That came during an exchange through the media by Price and Ortiz after Price hit Ortiz with a pitch the first time he faced him this season. It was retaliation for Ortiz standing at home plate and watching the second of the two home runs he hit off Price during Game 2 of the American League Division Series in October.
Archer continued: “All my interactions with (Ortiz) off the field have been good, but when it comes to him on the field, I don’t know what makes him think he can showboat the way he does and then nobody retaliate, nobody look at him in a funny way, nobody pitch him inside. I don’t know why he feels like that. But obviously, he feels the way (Price) said he does. He feels like he’s bigger than the game. He feels like the show is all about him.”
Archer went on to explain that if he didn’t walk Daniel Nava and allow an infield single to Dustin Pedroia, then Ortiz would have had to settle for a solo home run.
Ortiz, when told of Archer’s remarks, simply said, “Whatever, dude. There’s always going to be comments out there. He’s not the right guy to be saying that, I think. He’s got two days in the league, and to be (whining) and complaining about stuff like that … what else?”
It was pointed out on Twitter when Archer’s comments hit social media that Archer once kissed his bicep after striking out Nava last season with the bases loaded.
One run would not have beaten the Rays. Three, however, did, and it was a change-up — Archer’s third-best pitch — that caused the damage.
“Well, I didn’t want to throw it down the middle,” Archer said. “I was just trying to throw a quality change-up down in the strike zone. The way I had worked him, it was a good option. I just didn’t execute it.”
The Rays’ runs came on a two-run double by Desmond Jennings in the bottom of the third inning off Allen Webster, who was making his season debut.
Webster went 5 1⁄3 innings for the win.
The Rays managed only five hits in the game and struck out six times over the final three innings.
Rays manager Joe Maddon, asked for his thoughts on Ortiz, spoke of how much respect he has for the designated hitter. In fact, Maddon gave Ortiz a bottle of cologne during the 2006 season after Ortiz feasted on Rays pitching during a series at the Trop.
“I’m not saying that my respect is diminished, it’s just something that makes you think a little bit, that’s all,” Maddon said. “It’s just part of the game that’s not necessary, and I have no problem with it. (Rays shortstop Yunel) Escobar does his jump shot (after making a play), whatever, that’s all good.”