Washington, DC – David Price spun seven strong innings on Tuesday as the Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Washington Nationals, 5-4, in the opener of a three-game set at Nationals Park.
Price (9-4) surrendered four runs -- three earned -- on six hits and a walk with four strikeouts to earn the victory. Jake McGee fired a perfect eighth in relief and Francisco Rodney worked a scoreless ninth to nail down his 20th save of the year.
Carlos Pena crushed a two-run homer and Elliot Johnson added a two-run triple for the Rays, who swept the Nationals the last time these teams met back in 2009.
Chien-Ming Wang (2-3) was charged for all five runs on seven hits and three walks in just 3 1/3 innings of work. Ian Desmond clubbed a solo shot and Michael Morse added a two-run blast, but Washington lost its fourth straight game after being swept by the New York Yankees over the weekend.
"He's been having some problems with his delivery and he's been rushing," said Nationals manager Davey Johnson about Wang. "That's why he's still having some delivery problems."
The Rays struck for a run in their first at-bat as Desmond Jennings and Pena slapped consecutive singles before B.J. Upton made it three in a row with an RBI base hit to left, plating Jennings from third for a 1-0 edge.
The Nationals responded in the bottom half when Danny Espinosa singled to start the frame, stole second two batters later, and moved to third on a groundout.
Morse then smacked a grounder to deep third base, where Will Rhymes one-hopped his throw to first and it tipped off Pena's glove, allowing Espinosa to score as the Nationals pulled even at 1-1.
Desmond gave the Nats a jolt in the second, launching a 1-1 changeup over the center-field wall to give the home team a one-run lead.
Pena made Wang pay for a leadoff walk to Jennings in the third as he followed with his ninth homer of the year to center field, giving the Rays a 3-2 lead.
Upton then doubled and moved to third on a groundout, but was cut down at the plate when Jennings fielded Ben Zobrist's groundout and fired home to catch Upton for the second out of the inning.
Jose Lobaton followed with a two-out walk and Johnson chased both runners home with a triple off the wall in left-center field, giving the visitors a 5-2 lead.
Ryan Zimmerman kept the sixth inning alive with a two-out single to left and Morse followed with his first home run of the year to bring the home team within a run at 5-4.
Rays reliever Joel Peralta was ejected from the game when he entered in the bottom of the eighth inning. The Nationals manager alerted umpire Tim Tschida to something illegal in Peralta's glove. The umpires convened and ruled that Peralta had a foreign substance in his glove, which turned out to be pine tar.
"Before you start throwing rocks, understand where you live and understand what's going on." said Rays manager Joe Maddon about Davey Johnson's request to have Peralta's glove checked. "He knows, he's very much aware of how this thing works."
McGee was called in from the bullpen to replace Peralta and quickly retired the Nats in order to keep it a one-run contest before Rodney nailed down the victory with a perfect ninth.
Rays outfielder Matt Joyce left the game in the bottom of the fifth inning with back tightness...It was the first time Tampa Bay played in Nationals Park, making it the 40th difference ballpark the team has played in. The only current park they have yet to play in is Dodger Stadium...Wang dropped to 7-6 in 15 starts against the Rays.