Rookie pitcher David Price leads Tampa Bay Rays to win over Detroit Tigers

Akinori Iwamura, in his first game back since knee surgery, fields Miguel Cabrera’s grounder and throws him out in the third.

Associated Press

Akinori Iwamura, in his first game back since knee surgery, fields Miguel Cabrera’s grounder and throws him out in the third.

DETROIT — David Price was as stunned as any Ray by Friday's trade of Scott Kazmir. The two lefties had become close friends, riding to the Trop together from their Harbour Island condos, sharing tales and time, developing a routine to play catch the day before each of Price's starts.

Price dragged Kazmir out on a rainy field one last time Friday afternoon, then after the trade to the Angels was formalized had Kazmir sign a Rays cap he plans to display at his house.

Saturday, Price gave Kazmir something of a parting gift to be proud of, a sizzling seven-plus inning start in the Rays' 3-1 victory.

"We needed it," Price said. "The team might have been a little shocked, deflated, whatever emotions were running though after (Friday) with Kazmir getting traded. So that was big."

Price did most of the work as the Rays halted a two-game slide and improved to 70-58. They failed, however, to gain ground in the AL wild-card race, still trailing Boston by 4½ games after the Red Sox beat the Blue Jays 3-2.

But not all. Evan Longoria — dropped to sixth in a shaken-up batting order that included the return of Akinori Iwamura — made a couple of spectacular plays at third, and shortstop Jason Bartlett and rightfielder Gabe Gross each lent a hand.

And though there wasn't much offense — the Rays' first game in more than five years without an extra-base hit by either team — they were uncharacteristically opportunistic. They took a 2-0 lead in the third, scoring once before and once after the inning was extended with a passed ball on strike three to Pat Burrell, and added an insurance run in the ninth.

J.P. Howell, shaving the black-dyed beard he'd had in blowing his past two saves, pitched a 1-2-3 ninth to notch his 16th.

"It was good to get back on the winning train, back on track," Carlos Peña said. "Okay, okay. Everything's okay, let's go."

Price tamed one of the league's more threatening lineups and made it look relatively easy, allowing just one run and five singles over a career-high 71/3 innings by relying primarily on a fastball clocked often in the 96-97 mph range.

"I love that," manager Joe Maddon said. "I love when you've got a power guy with a power fastball that's willing to challenge hitters."

Price mixed in some changeups and just a few sliders in his 106 pitches and was impressive enough that catcher Dioner Navarro called it the best of his 17 starts.

Price, who improved to 7-6, 4.63 and picked up his first career road win, said his improvement is just a matter of doing what he does best: throwing his fastball where he wants to.

"Just pitching like I have my entire life, that's probably about all it comes down to," he said. "When I got called up (in late May) and even in Durham, I wasn't throwing like myself. I don't know what it was. … I was feeling sorry for myself in the beginning of the year; I went about it all wrong. I've picked it up here recently."

Maddon wasn't ready to call the just-turned 24-year-old fully developed, but he has been encouraged by what he has done and how he has done it. "He does not shy away from the moment," Maddon said. "He's good with the moment. Doesn't surprise me."

Price stopped short of formally dedicating Saturday's game to Kazmir, but it was clear he was on his mind.

"It's tough," Price said. "But it's baseball, and it's life."

As he's finding.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes.com.

Rays 3

Tigers 1

Rookie pitcher David Price leads Tampa Bay Rays to win over Detroit Tigers 08/29/09 [Last modified: Monday, August 31, 2009 2:13pm]

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