Two of the better left-handers in baseball face off on Wednesday when Jon Lester and the Boston Red Sox continue their three-game series against David Price and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field.
Lester has actually looked like a top-flight hurler this season, whereas Price, the American League's reigning Cy Young Award winner, has stumbled out of the gates.
Lester improved to 5-0 on Friday with one of the best starts of his career, as he tossed a one-hit shutout to beat the Toronto Blue Jays. He also struck out five without walking a batter and lowered his ERA to 2.73.
"I think today classifies as a little bit of a grinder for me," Lester said.
Lester gave up just a run in seven innings without getting a decision against the Rays earlier in the year, but is 10-8 lifetime against them with a 4.14 ERA in 23 starts.
Price, meanwhile, has struggled this season after winning 20 games a year ago. He is just 1-3 on the year, but is pitching to a 4.78 ERA. Price did not get a decision on Thursday against the Blue Jays, as he surrendered four runs (2 earned) and seven hits in eight innings.
"I thought that was his best stuff all season," Tampa manager Joe Maddon said. "He pitched really well. I thought he had everything going. His fastball, I thought looked really good, and the other stuff off the fastball was very good also."
Price also did not get a decision in that April 13 contest against Lester and Boston and has faced the Red Sox 16 times, going 8-4 against them with a 2.99 ERA.
Tampa's recent roll continued in Tuesday's opener, as Matt Joyce hit the go- ahead two-run single in a five-run fourth inning, lifting the Rays to a 5-3 win.
Luke Scott hit an RBI double and Jose Molina added a two-run base hit in the deciding frame for the Rays, who were coming off a weekend sweep of San Diego and won their sixth straight overall.
Matt Moore (7-0) remained perfect on the season and tied for the major-league lead in victories by scattering three hits and as many runs in his six-inning outing. The left-hander also became the first hurler in franchise history to start a season with seven wins before losing a start.
"Matt's been wonderful," Maddon said. "We've talked a little bit about the command issue, but he doesn't give up a lot of hits. He might walk a couple of guys, but they're not beating him up with hits."
David Ortiz launched a three-run homer for the Red Sox, who fell to 4-9 in May after an 18-8 start to the season.
John Lackey (1-4) was dented in defeat for nine hits and five runs over just 4 1/3 frames.
Boston swept a three-game set from the Rays earlier in the year.