The Tampa Bay Rays are sending left-hander David Price to the mound Monday night in Game 163 against the Texas Rangers, and Price's results against them should give cause for some alarm. Including the postseason, Price has a 6.62 ERA in 11 starts over 53 innings against Texas. At Rangers Ballpark, where the wild card tiebreaker is being played, Price has a 10.26 ERA in four starts.
Like no one else, the Rangers have gotten to Price, the Cy Young winner in 2012 and the runner-up in 2011. Their right-handed hitters — in particular Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus, Alex Rios, Craig Gentry and now Nelson Cruz — have been dangerous against him. And while any string of 11 starts over several years cannot be called definitive, it's more than bad luck that's bitten Price. The Rangers have hit him hard, compiling a .778 on-base plus slugging percentage. Cruz alone is 9 for 21 with three home runs against Price. He's getting back just in time.
No matter how Rangers batters might seemed suited to face him, if Price had a mental block about pitching in Arlington, Texas, he should have hurdled it when he allowed one earned run in 6 1/3 innings April 29. Of course, that's the only time he has beaten the Rangers in 11 tries.
In comparison to his best seasons, Price has been erratic in 2013. He finished the regular season with a 3.39 ERA in 26 starts, though his walk total and his strikeout-to-walk ratio were career bests and led the league.
Price, who as a rookie in 2008 got the last outs to send the Rays to the World Series, says he does not care about how past results look on the ledger. Via the Tampa Bay Times:
"This is the moment that I want to be in. I want to be able to relish this moment and go out there and have fun," Price said. "It's a situation I dreamed of as a little kid. It might not be a play-in game to get to the postseason but it's usually bottom of the ninth, bases loaded, two outs, something like that.
"I always envision myself being in that big moment and it'll be the biggest game of the year for us, biggest game of the year for Texas as well."
The Rangers' own starting pitcher has almost no history against the Rays.
In trying to make their fourth straight playoff appearance, the Rangers send rookie lefty Martin Perez to the mound. He has 30 career starts under his belt, including five in September, when he posted a 3.48 ERA. He logged five innings of relief against the Rays in 2012, his lone career appearance against them. Perez is a good young pitcher capable of out-performing someone like Price on any given day. And he doesn't have to go a full nine, or even seven innings, with the Rangers superior bullpen.