The Tampa Bay Rays owe their playoff berth, at least in part, to David Price.
Facing a potential 0-2 deficit, they’ll turn to him to help even their division series up.
Price looks to continue his mastery at Fenway Park on Saturday as Tampa Bay meets the Boston Red Sox in Game 2 of the AL division series.
Boston used a combined eight runs in the fourth and fifth innings Friday en route to a 12-2 victory and a 1-0 series advantage. History would be squarely in the Red Sox’ favor with another victory Saturday.
Twenty-four teams have fallen behind 0-2 in divisional series since 2004, with 23 ultimately losing the series.
The Rays, who were playing in their fourth city in six days, had won 10 of 12 before succumbing with sloppy defense behind a shaky Matt Moore. He yielded eight runs - seven earned - and eight hits, two walks, a hitter batter and a wild pitch over 4 1-3 innings.
Tampa Bay held a 2-0 lead after the top of the fourth with Jon Lester giving up solo homers to Sean Rodriguez and Ben Zobrist. The Red Sox then batted around in both the fourth and fifth innings, a first in the franchise’s postseason history.
The game took a turn in the fourth when Tampa Bay right fielder Wil Myers called for a high flyball off the bat of David Ortiz, but then let up allowing the ball to drop for a ground-rule double. Four batters later, Moore was late covering first base, which led to three more runs in the inning.
“We’ve been playing very well. We’ve not been making any mistakes. We made a bunch tonight,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “But I’ve also learned one other thing regarding baseball: 24 hours can make a huge difference. That’s just one game, baby. That’s just one. We’ll be back tomorrow. I promise you.”
Having Price (10-8, 3.33 ERA) on the mound has to bolster Maddon’s confidence. The left-hander threw a seven-hitter in a 5-2 victory over Texas in Game 163 on Monday, putting the Rays in position to knock off Cleveland in Wednesday’s AL wild-card game.
He’s lost all three career postseason starts with a 4.66 ERA, though each contest came against Texas. The Red Sox, whom Price threw 2 1-3 scoreless innings of relief against as a rookie in the 2008 AL championship series, figures to be an ideal opponent to help turn his playoff slump around.
Price is 10-6 with a 2.93 ERA in 20 career starts against the Red Sox, including a 6-1 mark with a 1.88 ERA in 10 games in Boston. He was 2-0 in three starts there this year while limiting the Red Sox to three runs on solo homers over 22 1-3 innings. He threw a five-hitter in a 5-1 win in Boston on July 24.
Price limited to Dustin Pedroia to two hits in 14 at-bats this season, and Ortiz is batting .216 in all of their matchups, with no homers in 37 at-bats.
Speculation is swirling that this could be Price’s last start in a Rays uniform. He’ll become a free agent after 2015 and Tampa Bay - which is unlikely to retain him with one of baseball’s lowest payrolls - could seek a return on him through the trade market.
“Whatever happens, I want to completely absorb myself and my team and my teammates like we have all year,” he told the team’s official website. “And that’s a big part of why we’re here right now.”
Boston will counter with John Lackey (10-13, 3.52), who posted a 5.33 ERA over his final four starts of the year. The Red Sox are hoping he’ll be recharged with Saturday marking his first outing in 11 days.
The right-hander is 3-4 with a 3.12 ERA in 14 career postseason games, though he hasn’t appeared in one since 2009. He’s 3-5 with a 6.70 ERA in nine starts versus the Rays since joining the Red Sox in 2010.
Desmond Jennings had been 13 for 26 over his previous nine games with eight RBIs before going 0 for 3 with two strikeouts Friday. He’s 1 for 11 with five strikeouts versus Lackey.
Zobrist is 11 for 27 (.407) against him while Yunel Escobar is 8 for 15.
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