Rays' Davis throws shutout for first win
Rookie strikes out 10 and allows just four hits vs. Orioles
BALTIMORE -- Wade Davis gave the Rays a happy ending to a dreary road trip Thursday night, when the rookie right-hander tossed a complete-game four-hit shutout against the Orioles.
In the final installment of an 11-game road trip, Davis pounded the strike zone with quality pitches throughout his outing, and the Rays took a 3-0 win over the Orioles with 12,436 watching at Camden Yards.
While the Rays headed back to St. Petersburg after going 2-9 on the trip that took them to New York, Boston and Baltimore, everything looked a little better for Tampa Bay after watching its prized prospect have his way with the Orioles. In addition, the win moved the Rays to one game over .500 for the season at 74-73.
Davis entered his third Major League start after getting lit up for eight runs in 2 2/3 innings by the Red Sox on Saturday, which made what happened in his first inning Thursday night even more remarkable.
Davis began his outing by walking Brian Roberts, yielding a double to Felix Pie and walking Nolan Reimold to load the bases. But Davis never seemed to panic and slowly began to work himself out of the jam.
First, he got Nick Markakis to ground out into a force at home plate. After striking out Melvin Mora, Davis retired Luke Scott on a line out to end the threat.
"That's the impressive part, bases loaded, nobody out in the first inning," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "And they've got some pretty firm guys coming up to the plate and he wiggles out of it."
After flirting with danger in the first, Davis settled into a nice rhythm and seemed to put it in cruise control. The Orioles managed just three more base runners over the final eight innings.
"He did settle in and you could see from the side that he had some really good stuff," Maddon said. "The fastball had that little late life to it, loved the curveball command. He threw a lot of first-pitch breaking ball strikes that were good.
"Any time you can throw a curveball like that for a curveball strike like that, it truly messes with the hitter's head, because everything opens up to you within the strike zone. Hitters become much more defensive. I thought he did a great job with that."
Immediately after the game against Boston, Davis surmised that he had been too fine with his pitches. A different pitcher showed up against the Orioles.
"Even in the first inning, I threw some pitches that were a little bit off," Davis said. "But I was still trying to go after them aggressively. I wasn't worried. I even got more aggressive and in the strike zone more."
The Rays' offense got RBI singles from Carl Crawford and Evan Longoria and also scored on a nifty safety squeeze that saw Gabe Kapler place a perfect bunt to score the run. Tampa Bay took its 3-0 lead into the bottom of the ninth and the only mystery seemed to be whether Davis would be given the chance to finish what he started. Maddon had strong feelings about what he wanted to do with his prized rookie at that point.
"I'm a big believer that when you get a young guy like that, if he has a chance to throw a complete game and a complete-game shutout, it could really catapult him," Maddon said. "So I thought it was important to do that.
"He had a couple of quick innings late that permitted him to get to that point. That's because he was throwing fastball strikes. He was fabulous. I did let him go longer than normal."
Davis went to the mound in the ninth and proceeded to strike out in order Pie, Reimold and Markakis, giving him 10 strikeouts on 124 pitches and his first Major League win.
"I was trying to get as quick outs as possible there in the ninth," Davis said. "I didn't want to be out there and walking a guy or something like that. Striking out the side is fun though."
Orioles manager Dave Trembley, who was ejected in the top of the seventh, offered congratulations to Davis.
"Complete games are a rarity these days and you do it this late in the season, and to do it in the big leagues is a tremendous accomplishment," Trembley said.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.