The Saucy One was flat out nasty tonight, and he locked into a brilliant duel with Price. The two matched each other for seven innings, each leaving the game without a chance of factoring in the decision. Thankfully the Orioles bullpen was better than the Rays bullpen, and a home run by Matt Wieters in the eighth inning gave the Orioles the edge they needed.
After a quick top of the first inning in which Simon allowed a double to Evan Longoria, the Orioles put up an unearned run to take the lead. After J.J. Hardy lined a one-out double off of the scoreboard in right field, Nick Markakis hit a ground ball up the middle. The Rays shortstop, Sean Rodriguez, ranged to his left and fielded the ball, but his throw skipped past Casey Kotchman at first. It looked to me like Nicky beat the throw, but the official scorer called the entire play an error. Hardy scored on the miscue.
It looked like the Rays would go on top in the second inning, but Simon pulled off an amazing feat that made the Rays look like...well, the Orioles. He allowed the first three batters to reach via a single, a walk, and another single. With the bases loaded and none out, I was ready for the implosion. But Alfredo didn't fall apart! Instead, he struck out John Jaso and induced a 6-4-3 double play from Rodriguez.
And after that? Well, after that Simon was awesome. Beginning with the strikeout of Jaso, he retired twelve straight batters. Of those twelve, five were strikeouts, five were ground outs, and two were fly outs. He was on.
Unfortunately for the Orioles, Price was just as good. After the first inning, in which he allowed one hit, one walk, and one unearned run, Price pitched four innings in which he allowed just one base runner on a Robert Andino single in the third inning.
The pitchers' duel went strong into the sixth inning when Simon finally blinked. After striking out Desmond Jennings for the first out, he walked B.J. Upton. Walking guys is never a good idea, and walking them in front of Longoria is an even worse idea. Longoria launched a no-doubt-about-it home run to left field. Just like that, the O's were losing.
Price also got into trouble in the bottom of the sixth, but thanks to Vlad "Rally Killer" Guerrero, he didn't give up a run. Hardy reached on a lucky infield single and Nicky walked to put two on with no outs. I'll give you three guesses as to what Vlad did! Oh, just kidding, I know you only need one to guess that he grounded into a double play. Grounding into double plays and getting thrown out on the base paths, that's what Vladdy does! The DP moved Hardy to third, but he was stranded when Matt Wieters grounded out to third base.
Simon returned to pitch the seventh and struck out the first two batters he faced before two singles made things interesting. But he struck out Jennings to end the inning. It was a rough night for the rookie; that was his third strikeout of the game. That did it for Simon, whose final line was 7 IP, 6 H, 2 ER, 2 BB, 9 K, 1 HR. The nine strikeouts is a career high for the Sauce. He threw 99 pitches, 65 for strikes, and had a 7:2 GO/FO ratio.
Price returned for the bottom of the seventh, but unlike his counterpart on the Orioles, he didn't make it out of the inning. He retired Mark Reynolds on a fly ball for the first out, then walked Nolan Reimold. The Gazelle took off for second and was safe on a stolen base. After Ryan Adams struck out, the rarely seen Jake Fox stepped to the plate, pinch hitting for Kyle Hudson. Fox lined a ball to the left-center gap, scoring the Gazelle and tying the game! Well done, Jake Fox! Equally impressive is the fact that he took the count to three balls and a strike before the double. The hit tied the game and knocked Price out of it. His final line: 6.2 IP, 4 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 6 K. Juan Cruz relieved him and ended the inning.
After Pedro Strop and Troy Patton combined for a scoreless eighth inning, that's when the fun started. J.P. Howell quickly retired J.J. and Nick on fly balls, but with two outs Vlad lined a single down the left field line. He was immediately pinch run for with Adam Jones, because gimpy AJ is a better choice than healthy Vlad. That brought the switch-hitting Jesus to the plate, and boy he didn't let us down. Howell was totally preoccupied with Jones at first, and before he threw his third pitch to Wieters he threw over to first five times. When he finally did get around to throwing that pitch, it was an offspeed pitch right down the middle of the plate and Matt crushed it. Jennings started back in left field, but ultimately turned and watched it sail out. The small but rowdy crowd at Camden Yards went wild, no doubt over the fact that Troy Patton was now in line for his first career ML win. Just kidding, they love Matt. We all love Matt!
With Jim Johnson warming in the bullpen, Patton returned for the ninth inning. He quickly got two outs and when the Rays went to a pinch hitter for the lefty Jason, Buck Showalter pulled Patton in favor of JJ. Seems like a bit of over-managing to me, but oh well. JJ finished the game for the save, and the O's managed to win a game started by David Price for the third time this season.