ST. PETERSBURG — It was an unusual matchup Thursday night at Tropicana Field. You had a rare pairing of reigning Cy Young Award winners and two teams with lofty preseason expectations scratching to point their seasons in that direction. But what Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon saw was normal. David Price? Normal.
Fernando Rodney? Normal. A walk-off win on a bases-loaded walk? Well, Maddon loves nothing more than when his hitters accept their walks, so, yeah, normal. The Rays beat the Toronto Blue Jays 5-4 in 10 innings when Luke Scott drew a walk with the bases full. “In this case a walk is as good as a hit,” Scott said. “It's always good for the team. With the bases loaded it's even better.” Scott's at-bat was set up by a two-out double from Evan Longoria, an intentional walk to James Loney and a walk by Ryan Roberts. Scott feel behind 0-2 to Jays right-hander Brad Lincoln, fouled off a pitch then worked the walk. “We were playing chess out there and the first couple of moves he beat me,” Scott said. “I had to go into battle mode, foul off a tough breaking ball and lay off some pitches, and I was fortunate to work a walk. I was hoping to get something over the plate that I could serve it out into the outfield and do some damage.” The win enabled the Rays to split the four-game series with the last-place Blue Jays. It also helped them erase the frustration from blowing leads Monday and Tuesday and losing very winnable games. But Maddon's takeaway from the victory was the performance by Price, who pitched eight innings and looked like his Cy Young Award-winning self, and Rodney, who hit a batter and allowed a single in the ninth inning, but was otherwise fine. “They both looked normal,” Maddon said, “and that's a wonderful thing for us.” Price's velocity was in the mid-90s. He did blow a 2-0 first inning lead, but he didn't let the game get out of control. He turned in his second-longest outing of the season. “That's the best I've felt overall, one of the two best games that I had,” Price said. “It felt good to go out there and have some of my best stuff.” Maddon said it was more than Price's velocity, it was the way he approached the Blue Jays lineup. “It was just an aggressive game on his part,” Maddon said. “Challenge hitters. Here's my stuff. I'm proud of it. Let's go, and I thought he looked really good.” To Maddon it was the start he was looking for from his 20-game winner. “I think this can be a spring board for him, I really do,” Maddon said. “Against a team like that, they've been swinging the bats well. They got a good lineup. They're solid. You don't mess with that group. I think David went out there and challenged them. I loved his aggressive approach. That looked a lot more like him. I think that's a great game for him to build off of.” The game matched the reigning Cy Young Award winners Price and R.A. Dickey, who earned the award after winning 20-games for the New York Mets. The Rays got two quick runs off Dickey on an RBI double by Longoria and a single by Matt Joyce in the first inning. The Jays came back to take leads of 3-2 and 4-3. Yunel Escobar made it a 4-4 game in the seventh inning with a long home run over the center field fence. After that it was a battle of the bullpens. Dickey was gone after six innings, and Maddon used Rodney in the ninth and Kyle Farnsworth in the 10th. Price shut down the Blue Jays after they went ahead 4-3 in the fifth inning. He kept his offense in the game and saved some innings for the bullpen. “(Thursday) was the David Price I'm used to seeing,” Scott said. “The velocity was back up and using his fastball. Still mixing it up a lot, but how I knew David at his best he's pitching off his 95, 98 mph fastball. That's his bread and butter. That's what sets up his other stuff. I was thrilled to see him get back to his self.”s