ST. PETERSBURG — Left-hander David Price entered Tuesday's win-or-go-home Game 5 of the American League division series hoping for a little payback.
Price, admittedly "stung" by his performance in a Game 1 loss to Texas, relished the second chance, hoping to give the Rays a "better chance to win" in the biggest start of his career.
And Price did pitch better, allowing three runs over six innings, but it wasn't enough in a 5-1 season-ending loss.
"They gave me another shot to get back out there and it's all I asked for, and I wasn't able to come through for us," Price said. "It's a tough pill to swallow."
It was the first time all season Price lost two starts in a row. He lost just three starts from July through September. Price's margin for error was slim to none against Rangers ace Cliff Lee, who allowed just one run over 16 innings combined.
But it was no solace to the perfectionist in Price.
"It's very disappointing," Price said. "I want to go longer than that. I want to give up less runs than that, and it's tough. The guy they ran out there tonight (Cliff Lee) is one of the best in the game and he proved that over the course of the season and this postseason. Sometimes, you have to tip your cap."
Unlike Price's first playoff start, when he gave up five runs and nine hits (including two homers) to Texas, the All-Star starter wasn't hit nearly as hard, as three Rays defensive miscues led to all of the runs against him. On two scoring plays, the ball wasn't even hit out of the infield. On the third, the ball was thrown into the outfield.
"David did the best he could," third baseman Evan Longoria said. "He gave us a chance."
Though the Rangers pounced on some Price fastballs in Game 1, he said he didn't change his approach too much Tuesday, other than mixing in more offspeed pitches early.
But Price felt, and located, a whole lot better.
"I felt like I commanded everything tonight," he said. "Inside and out, with my fastball. I thought I had good curveball command."
Price, who scattered eight hits and struck out six, left with the Rays down 3-1. It was a disappointing end to a spectacular season. Price likely earned serious Cy Young Award consideration after winning 19 games, starting the All-Star game and going undefeated in September (4-0, 1.67), including a victory Sept. 28 against Baltimore to clinch a postseason berth. Until his back-to-back losses in matchups with Lee, Price had gone 4-0 with a 1.79 ERA in seven previous starts against former Cy Young winners, with the Rays winning all seven.
"It stinks," Price said. "But I'm not going to hang my head over this. I'm going to get ready for next year."
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.