Sunday, December 17, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays' David Price bounces back, takes AL lead with 17th win

TORONTO — David Price insisted he didn't feel all that much different on the mound Sunday than he did Tuesday in Texas. But the results obviously were different, as the left-hander rebounded from his rough showing to post his American League-leading 17th win.

"David was himself (Sunday)," CF B.J. Upton said.

It helped that the Rays gave him a 1-0 lead in the first and blew it up to 7-0 in the second of their 9-4 win over the Blue Jays.

"They've done a good job all year hitting for me, especially earlier in the games," Price said. "It makes it a lot easier for me to go out there and try to pound the strike zone."

Price was not as sharp as he had been, especially walking three in the bottom of the second after he got the big lead. But he held the Blue Jays without a hit until the fourth and without any runs until the seventh.

"David wasn't as sharp as he normally is commandwise," manager Joe Maddon said, "but nevertheless, I thought he had great stuff."

With 17 wins — the second most in Rays history to his 19 in 2010 — Price tied Washington's Gio Gonzalez, Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto and the Mets' R.A. Dickey for the major-league lead. Price's 2.54 ERA is second in the AL to Seattle's Felix Hernandez (2.51).

NIEMANN TO SEE DOC: RHP Jeff Niemann spoke optimistically but sounded understandably concerned.

A day after leaving his Saturday comeback start in the fourth inning with what was described as arm tightness, Niemann said his shoulder was "a little bit more sore" than usual and he will see team orthopedist Koco Eaton this afternoon at Tropicana Field.

"A little weird," Niemann said. "But I'm still hoping for good news (today)."

Niemann was back on the mound for the first time since his right leg was broken by a line drive May 14, also in Toronto, and pitching well until leaving one batter into the fourth.

"There's nothing we can do." Niemann said. "We worked our butt off to get back on the mound and didn't just get back, we got back and were throwing the ball really well. So it was a bit of a rollercoaster of emotions (Saturday). … Hopefully it's just precautionary stuff."

NEW ADDITION: Maddon said OF Ben Francisco, acquired Friday from Houston, likely will play against left-handed starters and possible some righties. Francisco, who also was traded from Toronto to Houston this season, said he welcomes any opportunity. "I'm excited to get in here and hopefully contribute and help the team get to the playoffs," Francisco said.

GOMES ON THE GO: RHP Brandon Gomes was heading to his new Tampa condo after his season ended anyway and was hoping for a callup after Triple-A Durham finished today. So to get a promotion Sunday, added to the shorthanded bullpen, was a bonus. "To come up a few days earlier is even better," he said. Maddon said Gomes "more than likely" will stay with them to finish out the season.

MINOR MATTERS: Double-A Montgomery clinched the second-half South Division championship and will open the Southern League playoffs Thursday vs. Mobile (Diamondbacks). … Short-season Class A Hudson Valley, featuring 2011 top draft pick RHP Taylor Guerrieri and 2012 top pick INF Richie Shaffer, clinched its NY-Penn League division championship and opens the playoffs Friday.

MISCELLANY: Tickets are available in all price categories for today's game with the Yankees. … 1B Carlos Peña, making back-to-back starts, hit his team-leading 17th homer, his first since Aug. 18, and was on base four times. … Evan Longoria expects to be at third again today, his second back-to-back appearances.

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