ST. PETERSBURG — Manager Joe Maddon said LHP David Price was "about as sharp as he could be" Saturday night against the Angels.
"That was extraordinary stuff," Maddon said. "Everything was working for him."
That was until one big pitch in the seventh inning.
Price cruised through the first six, giving up one hit and a walk. But in the seventh, a seemingly innocent Anaheim rally that began with a one-out, full-count walk and infield single ended in a bad way, a three-run homer by Juan Rivera that gave the Angels a 3-2 lead. Price said Rivera hit a first-pitch fastball that wasn't bad, but "I just got a little predictable, and he guessed right."
"It (stinks)," Price said. "One pitch cost us extra innings and almost a ball game. It's tough to swallow."
Price's second straight no-decision (and fifth in his past nine) might have cost him his chance at a 20-win season and put him three victories behind a fellow American League Cy Young candidate, Yankees LHP CC Sabathia, who picked up his 20th Saturday night. Price (17-6) has, at the most, three more starts: Thursday at Yankee Stadium, Sept. 28 at home vs. Baltimore and the Oct. 3 finale.
Kaz back: Angels LHP Scott Kazmir says it'll be a lot of fun today making his first start at Tropicana Field since getting traded by the Rays in August 2009.
"It does kind of feel like a homecoming," he said.
But Kazmir, 26, a former two-time All-Star with Tampa Bay, admits he isn't quite sure what kind of reception he'll get from the home fans.
"To be honest with you, expect the worst and hope for the best," he said. "I've seen quite a few guys that went through the organization come back here and didn't really get that warm of an ovation."
Kazmir hopes for "redemption" from his last start against the Rays in Anaheim (Aug. 23), when he picked up the loss after giving up four runs over 51/3 innings. And he's eager to face good friend CF B.J. Upton, who went 2-for-4 with a leadoff homer against him last time. Upton said they are even after he went 0-for-4 in their meeting May 11.
Said Kazmir: "The rubber match is (today)."
Bouncing back: RHP Jeff Niemann enters today's start hoping to build off his last one, when he gave up just two hits over five innings against Toronto.
Niemann has struggled in four outings since coming off the DL (15.60 ERA), acknowledging his mechanics have been off.
"It definitely isn't the same as it was before; since I came back, it was pretty obvious," he said. "It's just a matter of figuring out what's going on and just go out there and keep fighting. That's the biggest thing, is to not get mentally lost because you're analyzing so many things."
Wheels in motion: Maddon said one reason RHP Dan Wheeler has struggled recently — allowing four hits (two homers) and two walks while recording just one out in his past three outings — is that he hasn't used the veteran reliever enough this month. Wheeler has appeared five times in the past 11 days, with Maddon saying it's a product of how other team's lineups have matched up.
Miscellany: RHP Mike Ekstrom was recalled from Triple-A Durham after Saturday's game. … Ben Zobrist doesn't have a hit in his past 21 at-bats. … Monday's start time is pushed back to 7:35 due to a pregame Yankee Stadium tribute to George Steinbrenner. … Principal owner Stuart Sternberg and family were at Saturday's game. … RHP Wade Davis and LHP Jake McGee will sign autographs from noon to 12:30 along the first-base line. … Saturday's game was just the fourth this season not televised.