(SportsNetwork.com) - David Price has been magnificent over his career at Fenway Park. The Tampa Bay Rays hope that trend will continue on Saturday when they try to wrestle home-field advantage away from the Boston Red Sox in Game 2 of the American League Division Series.
After winning 20 games and the AL Cy Young Award a year ago, Price endured an inconsistent 2013 and ended the year 10-8 with a 3.33 ERA.
The left-hander seemed to get better as the season wore on, though, and pitched to a 2.55 ERA over his final five starts. That was certainly the case on Monday when he earned a complete-game win in Texas in a one-game playoff to secure the second wild card spot for the Rays.
"During the course of the game, I kept talking to (catcher Jose Molina), and he said he was getting better and better, and I could see that from the side," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "There was no way I wanted to take him out. He was outstanding. I thought his stuff kept getting better."
Despite his up-and-down campaign, Price still thrived in Beantown, where he went 2-0 in three starts at Fenway and allowed just three runs in 22 1/3 innings. He's been terrific over the course of his career there, going 6-1 with a 1.88 ERA in 10 starts.
"It's just pitching against the Red Sox or pitching against a team like the Yankees, you know the history behind those franchises," Price said. "You know what they're capable of doing. Every single year, year in, year out, they are, they're going to be a postseason team, and you know you're going to have to come with your best. If you come with your "B" game, "B-plus" game, you have a pretty good chance to lose.
"Pitching in this ballpark, pitching against that team it makes you want it just a little bit more," Price said.
Tampa will need another solid effort from Price if they want to even this best-of-five set at a game apiece. In Friday's Game 1, Boston used 7 2/3 terrific innings from Jon Lester and an offensive barrage to gain the early upper hand in the American League Division Series, as it cruised to a 12-2 win.
Lester (1-0) gave up solo homers to Sean Rodriguez and Ben Zobrist that staked Tampa Bay to an initial 2-0 edge, but yielded just one other hit and three walks before exiting to a rousing ovation with two outs in the eighth.
The left-hander received ample support from his teammates, with the AL East champs shelling Rays starter Matt Moore (0-1) for eight runs -- seven earned -- and eight hits in the 17-game winner's 4 1/3 innings of work.
Teams have gone up 2-0 in the ALDS 22 times and advanced in 18 of them.
Every Boston regular collected at least one hit, with Jarrod Saltalamacchia finishing 2-for-4 with three RBI, Shane Victorino driving in two runs on a 3- for-4 day and Jonny Gomes producing a two-run double in the rout.
"We've done that all year long," said Victorino. "It's a testament to what we do every day. We grind out at-bats. We play 27 outs."
Rookie Wil Myers misplayed a fly ball off the bat of David Ortiz in the fourth inning to open the floodgates for Boston, which scored five times in the frame.
"It's one of those ones I saw went up," Myers said. "I waved Desmond off. I called the ball myself. I saw it up there. It's loud out there, so a hand motion, I had the ball, I was under the ball, and I saw Des out of the corner of my eye and backed off. It was a loud crowd today. That was totally my fault. I should have taken more charge out there and caught the ball."
Tampa Bay's four hits in Game 1 marked its fewest in a playoff game since being held to two hits in Game 2 of the 2010 ALDS versus Texas.
On Saturday Boston will hand the ball to righty John Lackey, who was tremendous in his first season back following Tommy John surgery. Lackey was only 10-13, but pitched to a 3.52 ERA and walked just 1.9 per nine innings while throwing 67 percent strikes, a career high.
"I'm going to be emotional," Lackey said. "I'm going to be fired up."
Lackey is no stranger to the postseason, as he is 3-4 with a 3.12 ERA in 14 outings (12 starts).
Tampa actually beat the Red Sox in seven games back in 2008 to advance to the World Series in the only other postseason series between the clubs.
This series will shift to Tropicana Field for Game 3 on Monday.