David Price tries to put a disappointing end to the regular season behind him this evening and shake off last year's postseason troubles when the Tampa Bay Rays and Texas Rangers play Game 3 of the American League Division Series at Tropicana Field.
After winning 19 games and finishing second in American League Cy Young Award voting last season, Price struggled this season to a 12-13 mark to go along with a 3.49 earned run average. He ended the year on an awful note, as he was winless in his last six starts and allowed six runs (five earned) in four innings on the season's final day before the Rays rallied for a win.
"September was a winless month for me, and that is, that's unacceptable," Price said. "So I need to come out tomorrow and throw the ball well and give us a chance to win."
Price's 3.49 ERA was only bested by Detroit's Doug Fister and Los Angeles' Ervin Santana for pitchers with losing records. He also posted career highs in strikeouts (218) and innings pitched (224 1/3) while walking just 63.
"I always believe David will rise to the occasion," Tampa manager Joe Maddon said. "I know he has had a couple of tough starts, but this guy's truly got one of the best makeups I have ever been around for a young player.
"Stuff wise, makeup wise, I always love the fact that David Price is pitching for us, and I mean that very sincerely."
Price's troubles could continue tonight, as he is 0-3 in six starts versus the Rangers and has pitched to a 5.69 ERA in those outings. He also lost to them twice at home in last year's ALDS, surrendering eight runs in 12 2/3 innings.
"It is tough to forget about it," Price said. "It is two postseason losses but it is something that I think about and something that I want to get over with.
Texas, meanwhile, will rely on righty Colby Lewis, who was 14-10 this season with a 4.40 ERA, but won his final three decisions. Lewis was a big part of the Rangers' AL pennant last season, as he went 3-0 with a 1.71 ERA in four postseason starts.
"I try to not let like this right here, the media and everything else, build it up to where it is more than just a start," said Lewis. "For me, I try to keep everything normal, keep the workouts the same, keep everything as familiar to me as possible. It doesn't matter if it's the second start in April or if it's seventh game of the World Series. I try to look at it the same and try to keep the same approach."
Lewis tossed eight scoreless innings to beat Price and the Rays the last time he faced them and owns a perfect 3-0 lifetime mark against Tampa Bay with a 4.15 ERA in four games (three starts).
The Rangers evened this best-of-five set at a game apiece on Saturday, as Mike Napoli's two-run base hit highlighted a five-run fourth inning, and Texas capitalized on some pitching mistakes from James Shields to earn an 8-6 victory.
The AL West champions were able to bounce back from a 9-0 defeat on Friday, thanks in part to three hit batsmen, including a pair in the pivotal fourth. Shields uncorked a wild pitch during a strikeout that plated the go-ahead run.
"It was very satisfying because Tampa has some great pitching over there, and pitching usually settles down a great offense," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "But we kept grinding and kept grinding, and I think we got our confidence back. Not that we ever lost it, but we don't usually go through games where we totally get shut down. And yesterday we got shut down for two hits and no runs, but we made some adjustments on Shields and we were able to get him."
Derek Holland (1-0) was charged with six hits and three runs -- one earned -- over five innings.
Shields (0-1) had six strikeouts over five-plus innings, but gave up eight hits and seven runs.
"He was going along really well," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of Shields. "I thought he had some good stuff and nice tempo and rhythm about him, and all of a sudden a couple hit batters. That's really unusual. That's the part that was definitely out of character."
"We've done it all year. We scrap away at runs and we play good team baseball and we all do it together," Napoli said. "We do good things. And, that inning showed. We all did it together and it put some good at-bats together and got it done."
Now the series shifts to St. Petersburg, where the Rangers won all three playoff games they played there last season. Texas won five of its nine regular season meetings with the Rays, taking two of three in Arlington, while splitting six games at Tropicana Field.