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Maddon thrilled about Rays' opening effort

The SportsXchange

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon was hard-pressed to find a way in which Monday's season opener could have gone better for his team.

A dominating outing by starter David Price, who pitched into the eighth inning, along with clutch hitting with two outs and flawless fielding led to a 9-2 win against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Rays struggled against Toronto right-hander R.A. Dickey last year, but they got to him for six earned runs in five innings, with five of the six runs coming with two outs.

Tampa Bay's lineup was nearly identical to the group that finished last season, with right fielder Wil Myers, third baseman Evan Longoria, center fielder Desmond Jennings and designated hitter Mark Joyce all enjoying multi-hit games in the middle of the batting order. The top seven spots in the Rays' lineup went a combined 10-for-23, saving their best swings for two-out and even two-strike situations.

Price left after giving up a two-run home run in the eighth, but the bullpen impressed, getting two outs from Joel Peralta, then two strikeouts from Brandon Gomes in a scoreless ninth. Giving up just one walk as a staff -- while drawing eight walks from Toronto -- is a continuation of an impressive spring training for the Rays, who had the majors' lowest ERA at 3.11 in spring.

Myers had a wild day -- scoring after a double in the first, driving in two runs in the second with a two-out single, then scoring on a wild play after hitting a high chopper just left of the pitcher's mound. Reliever Jeremy Jeffress threw the ball into right field, where Jose Bautista's throw to third wound up in left field, allowing Myers to score for an 8-2 lead.

Maddon was thrilled to see Myers go 3-for-5 after entering the game 0-for-7 against Dickey.

"To do what he did I know is probably going to accelerate his confidence a bit, especially the next time he sees him," Maddon said. "That was really good to watch. We're going to see this guy a lot, going to see this team a lot."

More impressive still may have been Joyce, who reached four times, going 2-for-2 with a walk, a hit by pitch, a two-run double off the wall in the sixth and a sacrifice fly. Joyce went into the day 0-for-13 in his career on Opening Day, so his production was one piece of the Rays' promising start.
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