Thursday, April 26, 2018
Sports

Price, Rays get playoff payback against Rangers

ARLINGTON, Texas — It was over now, and David Price had slayed the dragon, and he had propelled his Rays into the real playoffs.

It was then that he glanced to his right, catching the eye of teammate Evan Longoria. The two shouted at each other, and they embraced, and they did not let go.

There they were, the best pitcher and the best everyday player. Together, they had delivered this moment of triumph. Together, they had gone into this Chamber of Horrors that is the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, and they had faced these grave diggers known as the Texas Rangers.

This time, they won.

This time, they eliminated the Rangers.

It was the two of them, the heart and the soul of this team, that had delivered the Rays' biggest victory of the year, a 5-2 victory over Texas. It was Price and Longo, or Longo and Price, retracing the steps of a vision by Price.

How cool is this? Price went to sleep early Sunday night, and shortly after waking up Monday, he was thinking about the game. He had an image of himself throwing a complete game, then looking not to his catcher, but to Longoria.

Twenty-four hours later, it came true. The old friends embraced for the longest time, and other players jumped on them and clapped them on the back, and still, they did not let go. Tears were running down Price's face.

In some ways, that has become the snapshot of the season. Both players have withstood injury and pedestrian statistics. And both were stars Monday night.

In particular, Price was superb. There have been nights when he has been more in command, and there have been nights his velocity was better. But has Price ever been more competitive than he was against the Rangers? Put it this way: If Joe Maddon had tried to remove Price from the game, he would have needed the jaws of life.

Price has never won a game this big this decisively. Every time the Rangers would try to get something started, he would snuff it out. This was his game, and he wasn't coming out, and he wasn't backing up.

"He wanted this game as much as he wanted oxygen," Maddon said later. "He wanted to win, and he wanted to be the guy tonight. He has trained to be that person he was tonight since he was a kid."

As a team, the Rays had a little debt to repay. Over the past few years, no one has given them more misery than the Rangers. In 2010, the Rays season ended in the playoffs … at the hands of the Rangers. In 2011, the Rays' season ended in the playoffs … at the hands of the Rangers.

There was something about Texas that made Tampa Bay unravel. During those two series, it was J.P. Howell giving up a key double to Josh Hamilton. It was Kelly Shoppach throwing into leftfield. And it was Price, going 0-3 in the two series with a 4.66 ERA.

Despite that, Price could not wait to get a shot at this lineup again. Say what you wish about Price, who has had an uneven year, one when he started poorly, when he was injured, when he came back hot, when he cooled off. He won only nine times in the 162 regular-season games; last year, he won 20.

Then there is this: For his career, Price was 1-7 against the Rangers with a 5.57 ERA. Most pitchers want to run from a matchup like that. Price wanted the ball, and he wanted to keep it.

For all of that, however, this was the pitcher you wanted Price to be all along. Oh, he started out searching a little, and then he found his rhythm. By the time he took a 3-1 lead — on a two-run homer by Longoria, of course — he was in his groove. And every time the Rangers started something, Price stepped on it.

"I know it's been a rough year for him," said Longoria, who was 3-for-4. "He's had his ups and downs. But he's pitched brilliantly since he came back. In a moment like that, the emotions start to boil to the surface.

"That's what an ace does. That's what a leader of the staff does. It was awesome to watch."

Awesome. Has anyone used that word about Price when he has faced the Rangers?

It's funny. It seems a foregone conclusion that sooner or later, the Rays will trade Price. The money will get too big, and the prospects will be too enticing.

But Sunday night, Price envisioned he and Longo going out together, the way Andy Pettitte and Mariano Rivera went out. In the moment, in the middle of an embrace, it was easy for the rest of us to consider it, too.

And now comes Cleveland.

"Our goal in spring training was to get to the postseason and then see what happens. I don't think anyone wants to play us. We're extremely dangerous."

Just wondering. Is there any way that Price could throw again Wednesday?

And, if possible, Friday?

Comments
Is former Florida Gators lineman Taven Bryan a first-round NFL draft pick?

Is former Florida Gators lineman Taven Bryan a first-round NFL draft pick?

Aside from former Florida State safety Derwin James, the most likely first-round pick from a state college is ex-Florida defensive lineman Taven Bryan.He hopes, at least."That would (stink) if I didn't," Bryan said last month at Florida's pro da...
Updated: 12 minutes ago
The Lightning is fun, but does its playoff run translate into dollars for Tampa?

The Lightning is fun, but does its playoff run translate into dollars for Tampa?

TAMPA — As the Tampa Bay Lightning wait for its next playoff opponent to come to town, the city’s business community — large and small — say they’ve already won this NHL postseason.At WestShore Plaza this week, with blue and white banners surrounding...
Updated: 27 minutes ago
The Iron Nun still going strong at age 88

The Iron Nun still going strong at age 88

TAMPA —These smart phones and computers and internet are big annoyances to Sister Madonna Buder.Every time she turns around, there's a message or a request or a question coming into one of her devices from somewhere in the world."What's all the...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Lightning to face Bruins in East semifinals

Lightning to face Bruins in East semifinals

The Bruins beat the Maple Leafs 7-4 in Game 7 of their first-round playoff series Wednesday night and will face the Lightning in the Eastern Conference semifinals beginning Saturday at Amalie Arena. Here is the semifinal schedule: Saturday: at Tamp...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bucs draft scenarios: Would this guy be their lucky pick at No. 7?

Bucs draft scenarios: Would this guy be their lucky pick at No. 7?

TAMPA – This is the Rubiks Cube of NFL drafts. It can be twisted and turned it in any direction. Not many know how everything will line up.For the Bucs, the puzzle is simple.  Since they have the No. 7 overall pick, they need four quarterb...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Mock draft consensus: Who the experts have Bucs taking at No. 7

Mock draft consensus: Who the experts have Bucs taking at No. 7

We've linked to a lot of mock drafts over the last four months.We went back and assembled mocks from 40 different NFL writers we've linked to — this isn't the most recent for some of these who are in Mock 9.0 mode, but it's meant as an unscient...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Don’t call it a comeback: Jonny Venters return to majors with Rays much more than that

Don’t call it a comeback: Jonny Venters return to majors with Rays much more than that

BALTIMORE — First, think of what you were doing on Oct. 5, 2012, and how much has happened in your own world since then.That will give you a time frame.Next, think of the challenge of rehabbing from two Tommy John surgeries and a third procedur...
Updated: 6 hours ago

High school scoreboard for April 25

Wednesday’s scoreboardBaseballCanterbury 5, Shorecrest 4SoftballClass 6A, District 6 Semifinal: Springstead 10, Citrus 0
Updated: 7 hours ago

Thursday’s sports on TV/radio

TODAYBaseballTwins at Yankees1 p.m.MLBRays at Orioles7 p.m.Fox Sun; 620-AMBrewers at Cubs8 p.m.MLBCollege baseballAuburn at Florida7 p.m.ESPNULSU at Mississippi 8 p.m.SECCollege lacrosse, womenACC tournament: Louisville vs. Boston College11 a.m.FSFAC...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Softball: Boca Ciega edges Tarpon Springs for 6A-9 title

Softball: Boca Ciega edges Tarpon Springs for 6A-9 title

DUNEDIN — It's hard to believe that we'll see a more emotional, more exciting game than this one throughout the rest of the postseason.Top seed Tarpon Springs and No. 2 Boca Ciega were fearless with the Class 6A-9 title on the line Wednesd...
Updated: 8 hours ago