ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — AL Cy Young Award winner David Price kept the Rays in the game. The Tampa Bay bullpen let it get away.
Adam Jones keyed a seventh-inning rally with a two-run, go-ahead double and Chris Davis followed with a three-run homer Tuesday to help the Baltimore Orioles open the season with a 7-4 victory over the Rays.
“They just got us,” Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. “We did some real good things, but they got us in that one inning.”
Matt Wieters homered early off Price. Wieters later drew an intentional walk from reliever Jake McGee (0-1) before Davis’ towering shot over the right-field wall broke open the game and silenced a sellout crowd of 34,078 at Tropicana Field.
“It just wasn’t the right location,” McGee said.
Despite giving up a two-run homer to Wieters in the first inning and not being particularly sharp in his second career opening day start, Price departed with a 3-2 lead after the Rays scored twice in the sixth.
“I was just battling,” Price said. “I don’t feel like I had my best stuff. I’ve got to give credit to Baltimore. That’s a very good hitting team. One through nine can swing the bats.”
Ben Zobrist hit a solo homer for Tampa Bay in the fourth, then put his team ahead with a sacrifice fly in the sixth. Desmond Jennings drove in the Rays’ other run with a sixth-inning double.
Jason Hammel (1-0) allowed three runs and three hits in six innings. Jim Johnson pitched a scoreless ninth for a save.
Orioles manager Buck Showalter turned the game over to his bullpen after the five-run seventh. Darren O’Day allowed an unearned run in the eighth before Johnson, last year’s major leagues saves leader, finished the combined six-hitter.
Both teams entered the season with expectations of contending for the AL East title.
The Rays have won at least 90 games four of the past five years, while the Orioles stopped a stretch of 14 consecutive losing seasons by winning 93 games and making the playoffs a year ago, when they finished second in the division behind the New York Yankees.
Price is the leader of a deep rotation that kept Tampa Bay in the race despite offensive deficiencies in 2012. The 27-year-old left-hander became the first Rays pitcher to win 20 games, going 12-1 with a 2.26 ERA over his last 18 starts to edge Detroit’s Justin Verlander by four points in the Cy Young balloting.
The Orioles hopped on the Rays’ ace early. Jones doubled with two outs in the first, then scored on the second opening-day homer of Wieters’ career. Baltimore’s two-time All-Star catcher also homered in an opening-day loss to Tampa Bay at Tropicana Field three years ago.
Hammel limited the Rays to Zobrist’s first-inning single until the Tampa Bay second baseman homered on a 3-2 pitch to trim the Orioles’ lead to 2-1 in the fourth.
Kelly Johnson drew a leadoff walk in the sixth, when the Rays pulled even on Jennings’ RBI double and took a 3-2 lead on Zobrist’s sacrifice fly.
Price scattered seven hits, walked one and struck out two over six innings. He escaped a bases-loaded jam by getting Davis to hit into an inning-ending double play in the third and pitched his way through potentially troublesome spots in the fourth and sixth after giving up leadoff doubles to J.J. Hardy and Wieters.
“We had some opportunities we didn’t take care of, but that’s a real tribute to Price,” Showalter said. “He didn’t break. He got some big outs that kept us from opening it up a little bit.”
Brian Roberts and Nick Markakis, a pair of players back in Baltimore’s lineup after missing sizable portions of last season with injuries, got the Orioles going against McGee with one-out singles in the seventh.
Manny Machado struck out before Jones hit an 0-2 pitch into the gap in left-center field to put Baltimore back on top. The left-handed hitting Davis homered on the first pitch after the intentional walk to Wieters.
“McGee’s got a great arm,” Davis said. “Throws hard. I was able to get him early, obviously. After throwing four balls right there, I thought he was going to try and get ahead with a strike, and just tried to get the barrel to it. He supplied the rest of the power.”
NOTES: Rays senior adviser Don Zimmer, who’s beginning his 65th season in pro baseball, was joined by his family for the ceremonial first pitch. The 82-year-old former Cubs and Red Sox manager is in his 10th season in the Tampa Bay organization. His son, Tom, a scout for the San Francisco Giants, delivered the pitch. … It’s the sixth time, including three of the past four years, that the Orioles and Rays have opened the season against each other. … All seven Baltimore runs came with two outs. … Price didn’t allow a first-inning homer last season.
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