Atlanta’s hard-luck right-hander faces a major challenge as he tries again to earn his first win of the season, although the Braves bring a nine-game home winning streak into Tuesday night’s opener of a three-game series between the division leaders.
The Rays (40-23) surrendered a share of the AL East lead to the New York Yankees on Sunday following their 6-1 loss to Florida, but they’re still tied for the best record in baseball in part because of Price.
The No. 1 overall draft pick in 2007, Price (9-2, 2.23 ERA) seems to be realizing his potential in his first full season. Although he walked a season-high five Wednesday against Toronto, he held the Blue Jays to one run in six innings of a 10-1 win.
Price grew up in Tennessee rooting for the Braves, who were in the midst of winning 14 consecutive division titles at the time, and this year’s team could be primed for a return to the top of the NL East.
Atlanta (37-27) leads the division after going 24-9 since May 10, the best record in the majors in that stretch. The Braves finished their weekend series in Minnesota with back-to-back victories, including a 7-3 triumph Sunday.
One thing they can’t seem to do is get Kawakami (0-8, 4.48) a win, even though the Japanese veteran has posted four quality starts in his last five outings. He had eight strikeouts in six shutout innings Wednesday at Arizona, but didn’t get any run support in Atlanta’s 2-1 loss.
“He pitched his rear end off again,” Braves manager Bobby Cox said. “We got him absolutely no runs.”
Although Kawakami is the first Braves pitcher to begin 0-8 since Rosy Ryan did it for the Boston Braves in 1925, Atlanta has actually won his last three home starts, part of the club’s 14-2 surge at Turner Field since April 30.
The Braves’ nine-game home winning streak matches their longest since they won 12 straight there from April 8-May 5, 2000, making them even more excited to play 15 of their next 18 in Atlanta.
The Rays, meanwhile, bring the best road record in the majors - 22-8 - to Georgia. They may be excited to begin a six-game trip after losing three of four to close their homestand.
“We’re not going to change a thing,” Tampa Bay outfielder B.J. Upton(notes) said. “If we keep playing the baseball we know how to play and how we’ve been playing it, things will end up working out our way.”
Troy Glaus(notes) has been nearly as hot for Atlanta, going 4 for 5 with two homers in Sunday’s win. The resurgent veteran, who missed most of last season following shoulder surgery, is batting .348 with seven homers and 22 RBIs in his last 19 contests.
“He’s been just an unbelievable pickup,” Cox said. “He just keeps swinging.”