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Published September 12, 2015
Motorists might have done a double take when they saw the tall, thin man pedaling toward Fenway Park.
Yes, that really was Rays ace David Price heading to the field Friday on a bicycle.
The two-wheeler is part of the Hubway system that allows people to rent it at one spot and drop it off at another. There's a pickup and drop-off spot outside Fenway and another near the Boston Public Library close to Tampa Bay's hotel for the AL division series.
Price recalled seeing such a station on the Rays' last trip to Fenway when the left-hander and pitcher Chris Archer were returning from lunch.
"I said, 'I can't believe I just now saw this for the first time. I would've been riding bikes throughout the city or at least to the field if I knew that,'" said Price, who is scheduled to start Game 2 on Saturday. "I told Arch, 'Since we aren't going to come back here this year, I'll have to do it next year.'"
But now the Rays are back, so Price rode a bicycle from the park to the hotel after Thursday's workout and back for Friday's series opener.
Any close calls?
"Only one curb, no cars," Price said.
Rays manager Joe Maddon took it all in stride.
"It doesn't surprise me anything that he does. As an example, did you see him throw his bullpen (session) with his Vanderbilt football uniform on?" Maddon said. "I love his ways. He's a young man that's — he's Peter Pan. He's going to be that way forever, and I love that about him. I wish more of our guys could be that way. So anything David does, understand, should not surprise you. If you're around him more, it would not surprise you."
Price was a star pitcher at Vanderbilt.
SUPPORTIVE ROOKIE PITCHERS: Oakland pitcher Sonny Gray traded text messages Thursday night with good friend Gerrit Cole, who tossed six impressive innings and drove in a run to lead Pittsburgh past St. Louis on Friday in the NL playoffs at Busch Stadium.
Gray hopes to follow suit in his Game 2 outing Saturday night for the Oakland Athletics against Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers' loaded lineup.
It wasn't so long ago Gray was pitching for Vanderbilt and Cole for UCLA before becoming the No. 1 pick in the 2011 draft by the Pirates. Gray went No. 18 to the A's.
"He kind of shot me a text: 'This is weird, huh? We're both throwing in the playoffs after a year and a half ago we were facing each other in college,'" Gray said. "He wished me luck, I wished him luck."
Gray might be a month shy of his 24th birthday with just 10 major league starts to his name, but he knows plenty about what Verlander brings.
"He's a guy that, going back two or three years ago in college, we were watching him pitch in the playoffs and watching how it seemed like he was the only guy people were talking about," Gray said. "We were at some restaurant on the road and just watching him pitch and watching him throw 100 mph in the ninth inning."
LAST HOME GAME FOR MCCANN? Braves catcher Brian McCann is eligible for free agency after the season, so he approached Friday night's game knowing it could be his final home game in Atlanta.
The Braves could try to re-sign McCann, or they could open the 2014 season with Evan Gattis as their primary catcher. McCann is earning $12 million this season. Gattis is making $490,000 on his rookie contract.
"I mean, when I think about it, it's definitely there," McCann said when asked about his uncertain future with the Braves. "But at the same time, I mean, what we're doing here today is way more important than what's going to happen to me after the season. You know, I'm just focused on today's game."
LIRIANO TIME: Sunday cannot come some enough for Francisco Liriano.
The Pittsburgh Pirates ace would just as soon skip the travel day in the NL division series. The lefty will try to beat the St. Louis Cardinals for the fifth time in as many starts in Game 3 on Sunday.
Liriano beat the Reds in the wild-card game, and will only get to face the Cardinals once.
"I'm ready," he said. "I've just got to go out there and not try and do too much. I'm excited. I can't wait."
Liriano is 4-0 with a 1.16 ERA in his career against St. Louis and beat them three straight times in the span of about a month this summer, allowing two hits in eight scoreless innings the last time on Aug. 30. In the wild-card game, he gave up a run in seven innings.
"We feel really confident with him out there," second baseman Neil Walker said. "Especially the way he's been throwing."
BOSTON STRONG: Survivors of the Boston Marathon bombings, police and medical personnel walked in from center field in a pregame ceremony.
Friday's ceremony began with family members of Krystle Campbell and Sean Collier being escorted to a spot in the outfield just behind second base and in front of the letters "B STRONG" mowed into the outfield grass. Campbell was one of three people killed in the bombings. Collier was a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer shot by one of the bombers.
As the song "Hallelujah" played on the sound system, a door in the center-field wall opened. The first group to walk out were "THE INJURED AND THE INSTANT HEROES," according to the scoreboard. They included Carlos Arredondo wearing a cowboy hat like the one he had on when he helped injured marathon spectator Jeff Bauman reach medical help.
Bauman was pictured in a now familiar Associated Press photograph being led from the blast scene in a wheelchair by Arredondo.
Players, managers and coaches from both teams, lined up on the first- and third-base lines, applauded throughout the ceremony.
GAME 1 VS. GAME 2: Sure, Verlander wanted the ball for Game 1 of Detroit's AL division series rematch with the Oakland Athletics. He beat them in Games 1 and 5 last fall to help send the Tigers to the World Series.
Thing is, Verlander fully supported Max Scherzer getting the nod considering his 21-win season.
"I think any pitcher wants to be the Game 1 pitcher, but we're a unit," Verlander said Friday. "And the funny thing is if it wasn't me, this would probably be a non-issue. Max is the best pitcher in the American League, the only reason this is being brought up is what I've done over the last couple of years."
Verlander will instead go Game 2 on Saturday night.
And he hasn't always been the guy to lead things off in the postseason. Take Game 3 of the AL championship series last year, when Verlander held the Yankees to three hits and one run over 8 1-3 innings.
"Especially with the rotation, it doesn't really matter. I mean it does, but it doesn't," he said. "The four guys we're throwing out there are four of the best pitchers in the league and we were all year."
BOBBY'S FIRST PITCH: Bobby Cox was nervous about throwing out the first pitch before Friday night's Dodgers-Braves game in the NL playoffs.
Everyone had the same question for the former Braves manager: "Is your arm loose?"
Each time Cox answered "No, it's not," and added he was worried he wouldn't be able to throw the ball to home plate.
Braves president John Schuerholz kidded Cox by asking "You need a cutoff man?"
Cox, 72, managed a bit of bravado when asked what he would throw on the first pitch to Braves pitcher Tim Hudson.
"Four-seamer," Cox said. "Like (closer Craig) Kimbrel. Make it rise up."
Cox received an ovation as he jogged and walked to the mound. He lobbed the pitch all the way to Hudson, only a little off the plate.
REUNION TIME: Cardinals first baseman Matt Adams grew up rooting for the Pirates in Phillipsburg, Pa., about a two-hour drive away. He stayed in-state for college, too, attending Slippery Rock.
Adams has been the St. Louis Cardinals' first baseman since Allen Craig was sidelined with a left mid-foot sprain in September and his bat was a major factor for the NL Central champions. Friends and family will be watching when the NL division series shifts to Pittsburgh on Sunday.
"I've got my mom and dad coming," he said. "It will be neat to play close to my hometown."
But it'll far from a social outing.
"I'm more focused on getting the 'W,'" Adams said.