Fastball. Curve. Slider. Changeup.
Whatever Tampa Bay’s young lefty threw Friday night, the World Series champions had trouble hitting him in the Rays’ 9-3 victory at Tropicana Field.
Carlos Pena(notes) and Willy Aybar(notes) hit two-run homers to support Price, who allowed three runs and seven hits in a career-high 7 2-3 innings to improve to 2-0 with a 2.56 ERA in four career starts and one relief appearance against New York.
The 24-year-old took up where he left off last season, when he won his last three decisions, including an impressive performance against the Yankees, who are hitting .153 (17 for 111) against Price.
“It had to be the best I’ve ever seen him,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “I haven’t seen him a lot as a starter, but he was really sharp. … He had high velocity, good fastball command and then started adding in his curve, his slider and changeup and really pitched well.”
Teixeira went 0 for 4 and is 0 for 16 through four games, matching his longest hitless stretch to begin a season.
Jason Bartlett’s(notes) two-run double capped a five-run fourth inning against Javier Vazquez(notes) (0-1), making his first appearance for the Yankees since New York’s crushing loss to Boston in Game 7 of the 2004 AL championship series.
It appeared Price might get through the inning when he retired Rodriguez and Teixeira. But the top pick in the 2007 draft gave up an infield single to Robinson Cano(notes) and walked Jorge Posada(notes) to load the bases.
Price walked three and struck out seven to improve to 7-1 with a 3.40 ERA against AL East rivals. Both his wins over the Yankees have come at home, where he’s 9-3 with a 2.96 ERA compared to 2-4 with a 5.45 ERA on the road.
“That was one of my better ones (in the majors), I would say,” Price said of his 25th career start. “But there’s always room for improvement.”
Since losing four of his first seven decisions in 2009, Price arguably has been Tampa Bay’s most consistent pitcher.
He led the Rays with seven victories after the All-Star break. He was 3-0 over his final four starts, including wins over Roy Halladay(notes) and CC Sabathia(notes)— the latter denying the Yankees ace his 20th victory.
Entering Friday night, the Yankees were batting just .123 overall vs. the hard-throwing left-hander, who made his major league debut in relief at Yankee Stadium in September 2008.
“He threw the ball extremely well,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “Command of his fastball was really good. His curveball was excellent.”
Not so for Vazquez.
The right-hander was beginning his second stint with the Yankees after being acquired from Atlanta in a trade that sent Melky Cabrera(notes) to the Braves. Vazquez escaped a jam after Evan Longoria(notes) singled and Pena walked to start the second inning, but he wasn’t as fortunate after walking Zobrist on four pitches starting the fourth.
Pena’s homer into the right-field stands erased New York’s 2-0 lead. Navarro’s RBI single put Tampa Bay ahead, and Bartlett’s two-run double that skipped past diving left fielder Marcus Thames(notes) dumped the Yankees into a 5-2 hole.
Aybar’s homer, Crawford’s run-scoring single and Zobrist’s RBI double gave Price an even bigger cushion in the sixth, when the Rays also showed off their speed with Bartlett, Crawford and B.J. Upton(notes) all stealing bases before later scoring.
“With men on base I was just rushing too much,” Vazquez said. “The bottom line is, I didn’t make my pitches. It’s disappointing. I wanted to start off on the right foot. I made a lot of mistakes.”
NOTES: A-Rod’s triple was only his second since the start of the 2007 season. He scored on Navarro’s throwing error, giving New York a 2-0 lead. … Yankees fifth starter Phil Hughes(notes) will pitch in an extended spring training game Saturday, his final tuneup for his first scheduled start next Thursday against the Angels. … Rays RHP Jeff Niemann(notes), who left Thursday night’s game against Baltimore in the second inning after being hit in the right shoulder by a line drive, remains day to day.