Saturday, June 23, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Tampa Bay Rays' David Price reestablishes his dominance

ST. PETERSBURG — Already, the doubts had turned to whispers. Soon, the whispers would turn to moans. Eventually, those moans were going to turn into full-blown derision.

When a career seems to be going the wrong way, this is its soundtrack. One day, the talk was that David Price was promised tomorrow, and everyone agreed he was on his way to being another CC Sabathia. The next, he was yesterday's news, and he seemed to be stumbling down the Scott Kazmir career track.

As quick as a raised eyebrow, it seemed, Price had been marked down to half-price.

Then came Tuesday night, when a young pitcher restaked his claim as a one of the finest in the game.

For the Rays, it is difficult to imagine a finer sight than Price looking the way he used to look. He was explosive again. He was efficient again. He was there until the end again.

To sum it up, Price was dominant again in Tuesday night's five-hit shutout over the Angels, and it has been far too long since anyone suggested that of him.

Yeah, this is how he used to look — explosive and efficient, blistering and baffling. Once again, Price was in command of the game, of his fastball, of the altered perceptions of his place in the game.

"I needed that," Price said. "I needed to get that feeling back. It gets old coming out in the sixth inning."

As the words left Price's lips, you could imagine fans across Tampa Bay shouting, "Amen." In his three previous starts this season, Price had been pulled once in the seventh, once in the sixth and once after three innings.

The result was that unsettled feeling that Price was underachieving. After all, he was second in the Cy Young Award voting only two years ago. How could he have been only 12-13 last year? How had he been less than dominant this year?

Granted, that has been the cause of much of the grumbling about Price. He was so good so fast that, by now, some expected him to be unhittable. Finish second in the Cy Young voting and people tend to expect dominance every year.

Remember what a ball of fun Price was two years ago? Remember how good he was in the big moments? Remember how he etched the initials of former teammate Tyler Morrissey (who was killed in a car crash) on his glove? Perhaps it means something, but Tuesday was the four-year anniversary of Morrissey's death.

For the record, Price was aware of it, too. He talked to the Morrissey family before the start. Again. As he often does, he used Morrissey's memory as motivation. Again.

In other words, yeah, he's the same guy.

After the game, Rays manager Joe Maddon studied the Rays statistics and shook his head.

"He's 3-1 with a 2.63 ERA," Maddon said. "People have been, like, kind of criticizing him a little bit. Those are pretty good numbers right there. When you're that good, there are a lot of high expectations attached to that kind of skill level. A guy like that has a kind of a speed bump, and it's exaggerated a little bit."

Maybe. But Price is also as talented as any pitcher on the staff, and it's hard to imagine the Rays making a run at the postseason if he struggles. When a pitcher gets off to a slow start after an unsatisfying year, people are bound to notice.

"Absolutely, it's out there," Price said. "That's in all sports. Everyone has critics. But I'm my own worst critic, so it didn't bother me."

Tuesday night, nothing seemed to bother Price, least of all the Angels. Maddon has suggested before that Price was still learning which of his pitches to use when, but for a night, he seemed to have figured it out.

Even more important, Price didn't waste a lot this time. In his first three starts, Price would struggle through innings throwing 29-30 pitches. This time, he didn't throw more than 18 in any one inning, and he had six innings in which he threw 14 or fewer.

In all, it was a start that suggests a restart. If Price keeps pitching like this, yes, the Rays can contend. If Price keeps pitching like this, yes, the Cy Young voters may remember his name.

As for Price, yes, his expectations are as high as they have ever been.

"I don't see why they wouldn't be," he said. "I'm throwing the ball just fine."

Fine, he said. Finally, some might add.

Comments
Rodney Page’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

Rodney Page’s takeaways from Rays-Yankees

1. SS Willy Adames had a nice night, and there appear to be many more in his future. He had two hits, an RBI and an inning-ending leaping catch on a line drive by Didi Gregorius in the fifth.2. DH C.J. Cron needs to shake things up. Take a different ...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Marc Anthony pays a visit to the Trop

Marc Anthony pays a visit to the Trop

By Allana BarefieldTimes Staff WriterST. PETERSBURG — Latin pop star Marc Anthony visited Tropicana Field on Friday to see his beloved Yankees play the Rays.Anthony spent nearly an hour on the field before the game as fans and players surrounde...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Rays journal: Daniel Robertson’s return crowds up infield

Rays journal: Daniel Robertson’s return crowds up infield

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays reinstated INF Daniel Robertson from the 10-day disabled list (left hamstring strain). To make room, RHP Austin Pruitt was sent to Triple-A Durham."It's out of my mind. I don't think about (the hamstring) when I'm bend...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Rays hang on for a 2-1 win over Yankees

Rays hang on for a 2-1 win over Yankees

ST. PETERSBURG – Many times this season the Rays' strategy of opening the game with a short reliever and using the bullpen to finish hasn't had much success.Friday wasn't one of those nights.A total of six pitchers held the Yankees and their va...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

Missed time a good mental reset for Rays’ Matt Duffy

ST. PETERSBURG — Missing all of 2017 might have been the absolute worst thing for Matt Duffy.Frustratingly idled as he eventually recovered and rehabbed from ongoing left heel issues, he couldn't play the game he loved, couldn't show the Rays o...
Published: 06/21/18
Updated: 06/22/18
Rays journal: Jake Bauers proves he’s up to speed on bases

Rays journal: Jake Bauers proves he’s up to speed on bases

ST. PETERSBURG – Rookie 1B Jake Bauers has impressed at the plate and in the field since his June 7 promotion.Also, with his hustling on the bases."I knew he played hard; everybody said that at every level,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "I di...
Published: 06/21/18
Rays journal: 7 pitches, 3 straight homers prove too much in loss to Astros

Rays journal: 7 pitches, 3 straight homers prove too much in loss to Astros

HOUSTON — The Rays were engaged in a third straight tight, go-either-way battle with the defending champ Astros on Wednesday.Until they were not.A brutal seven-pitch sequence by starter Nathan Eovaldi changed everything, as he gave up three con...
Published: 06/21/18
Rays see the results of keeping a good, young core group together

Rays see the results of keeping a good, young core group together

HOUSTON — The Rays saw a lot on the weeklong trip that ended with Wednesday's game against that Astros, beyond the street hustlers prowling in Times Square and the urban cowboys and girls parading through H-town.There was an impressive debuting...
Published: 06/20/18
Updated: 06/21/18
Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Astros game

Marc Topkin’s takeaways from Wednesday’s Rays-Astros game

RHP Nathan Eovaldi said before his rough start Wednesday against the Astros that he was pitching better than his numbers showed. Well … In four starts since his six no-hit innings debut, he's 0-3 with a 6.17 ERA, allowing eight homers, four Wed...
Published: 06/20/18
For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

For starters: Rays at Astros, with a different look

UPDATE, 6:43: Cash said the key to how the pieced the lineup together was the opportunity to give Cron (who is struggling) and Duffy (who is doing well) back to back days off. … Looking ahead to the weekend, the Rays will use RHP Ryne Stanek as...
Published: 06/20/18