Garza guides Rays to win over O's
Righty's 7 1/3 frames, controversial foul ball lift Tampa Bay
ST. PETERSBURG -- Fair or foul? The fate of Friday night's game hung in the balance when Ed Hickox had to rule on Aubrey Huff's eighth-inning shot down the first-base line.
Fortunately for the Rays, the first-base umpire signaled foul, and the play that might have undone the Rays was erased in a 2-0 win over the Orioles in front of a crowd of 13,635 at Tropicana Field.
The Rays took their 13th win in their last 14 home games and maintained their position in second place in the American League East with a record of 28-20.
Matt Garza started for the Rays and pitched 7 1/3 scoreless innings before walking Nick Markakis, prompting Rays manager Joe Maddon to call for left-hander Trever Miller to pitch to left-handed-hitting Aubrey Huff with the Rays clinging to a 1-0 lead.
Huff had tripled earlier in the game and generally has made life miserable for his former employers seemingly every time the Rays and O's meet. Once Hickox ruled Huff's hit foul, Huff vented his frustrations at the umpire, but managed to dodge an ejection.
"Honestly, you shouldn't even need to overturn that, it was clearly fair from where I was," Huff said. "It wasn't even close. Like I said, it's just a ball I've hit 1,000 times down that line, you think it's an automatic double, game-changer right there -- you know, second and third, one out, you never know what might happen.
"I understand Ed's human. He makes mistakes, and obviously he made one there, but you guys want to talk about replay -- there's a classic case right there. It wasn't even close."
Miller couldn't say for sure whether the ball was fair or foul.
"I'd say 50-50 for me," Miller said. "I've had that ball called fair and I've had it called foul."
Miller didn't know if the right call had been made, but he understood the damage avoided.
"If that ball is fair, more than likely a run would have scored, possibly a man on third," Miller said. "That ball rattles around in the bullpen off that wall down there, and who knows? That was definitely the call of the game, a huge moment."
Huff then rolled over into a 4-6-3 double play to end the inning.
"When [Huff] came out to argue, I thought maybe he'd get thrown out, so I was thinking, 'Who are you going to face if he does get ejected?'" Miller said. "'It's going to be a right-hander off the bench. Get your mind right for that.' Then he stayed in the game and we pulled that double play to get out of the inning."
In the bottom of the eighth, the Rays got an insurance run when Carlos Pena's sacrifice fly scored B.J. Upton from third to put the Rays up, 2-0. While the Rays scored on Pena's drive to left, the damage could have been worse had Luke Scott not made an acrobatic catch on the warning track, diving away from home plate to rob Pena of extra bases.
"I couldn't tell what was going on," Pena said. "He went backwards, and up without seeing it, it was like Willie Mays, it was crazy. The good thing was the run came in. That was a big insurance run for us. And then [Troy Percival] came in feeling comfortable with a two-run lead and did his job -- didn't really need it -- but I think he felt comfortable after we scored that run in the end."
Percival retired the O's in order in the ninth to earn his 14th save of the season. And he did so after falling behind 3-0 to the leadoff hitter, Kevin Millar.
Percival's mindset was simply to not give up a leadoff walk.
"I'd rather throw one in there he hits eight miles than walk the leadoff hitter and start something," Percival said.
Garza picked up his third win of the season, adding to the stellar numbers put up by Rays starters in recent weeks. In the last 16 games, Rays starters have pitched to a 2.42 ERA, allowing just 30 runs in 107 2/3 innings -- and 23 of those runs came in four starts. In the other 12 games, Rays starters pitched to a 1.39 ERA.
By taking the win, Garza also continued his success against the O's, nailing down his fifth win in six career starts.
"I don't know," said Garza when asked to explain his success against the O's. "That's a great bunch of hitters over there. ... Today, I had the upper hand."
Maddon just shook his head and smiled when talking about Garza against the O's.
"It doesn't matter what nine players are in the uniforms, just so it says Orioles," Maddon said.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.