DENVER — Maybe David Price should be the one apologizing.
The Rays ace failed them again Saturday night, surrendering another lead and turning what looked to be a winnable game into a mess that ended up a 9-3 loss to the Rockies.
"It's very frustrating," Price said. "When you get the lead, obviously, you want to keep it so your team can win. And when you're not doing that, it's rough. It is. I've got to get better."
Price — 1-3 with a 6.25 ERA after a postgame scoring change made all nine runs earned, a career worst — has given up a lead in four of his past five starts and seven times total.
"We're not used to that with David either," manager Joe Maddon said. "I really believe it's going to come back to us. I don't have a good answer for that. If anything, his velocity is down just a click, and with that, maybe the other pitches aren't playing the same off that."
Price said he was looking forward to getting back on the mound after "an awful tough week" following his April 28 confrontation with umpire Tom Hallion that resulted in an exchange of accusations of cursing and lying, extensive media coverage, inappropriate tweets, $1,000 fines from Major League Baseball and bruised feelings for Price, who is insisting on an apology.
But Price didn't pitch well, saying again he felt fine but admitting he had trouble getting a grip on the ball in the thin air. He tried licking his fingers and rubbing down the balls that felt too slick.
"It was tough," he said. "It was a little bit different."
The first sign of trouble was when Price handed back a 3-1 lead right after the Rays gave it to him in the third. The next was when he handed the Rockies the win after a couple of plays weren't made behind him. A fat curveball on his 104th and final pitch became a grand slam for rookie Nolan Arenado.
"I've just got to make better pitches," Price said. "Especially in those big spots. And that not what I'm doing right now. It's frustrating. It is."
"I've watched David for a while now, and he's just been such a dominant pitcher over the years," Rays rightfielder Matt Joyce said. "It's definitely weird to see that he's struggling so much. I don't think any of us have any lack of confidence in him whatsoever. For him, once he gets that confidence or gets that feeling that he needs or he's looking for, he's going to take off."
Maddon feels the same, but for now, he admits: "Nothing was normal."
Price gave up a run in the first, but the Rays took a 3-1 lead in the third on RBI hits by James Loney and Kelly Johnson. Price gave that back on a two-run double by Troy Tulowitzki, then allowed a long homer to Carlos Gonzalez in the fifth. The seventh inning was messy, too, with Evan Longoria making an error and Ben Zobrist, who replaced injured Yunel Escobar at short, not making a good throw on a slow bouncer that was first scored an error then changed to a hit.
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.