CHICAGO -- David Price came into his start on Sunday afternoon without a win in his first five starts for the Tampa Bay Rays and the frustration from some sour luck thus far was noticeable.
Much the way a hitter who's in a slump just needs one solid game to snap out of it sometimes, Price -- the 2012 American League Cy Young winner -- was looking for a game like the one he pitched against the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field.
Price got his first win of the season in an 8-3 Rays win that split a four-game series against the White Sox (10-14) and might have re-sparked the engine for Tampa Bay's ace.
"I think it's really important," said Rays manager Joe Maddon, who let Price pitch the seventh inning with the game tied 3-3 despite starting it with 105 pitches. "Psychologically speaking, David's a competitive person and I know he's going to sleep better and I know he's going to feel better between starts. It's funny how we, as humans, deal with things on occasion ... but I'm certain his whole week's going to be better because of his performance today and getting a win."
Price wasn't in the greatest mood after the game, however, thanks to an incident after the seventh ended on Dewayne Wise's comebacker to the mound. Price, who was upset about a 1-2 pitch against Wise he thought was a strike, said home plate umpire Tom Hallion cussed at him as he left the field with his head down. Hallion denied cussing at Price, but the Rays pitcher and several teammates who said they heard it from the dugout insisted it happened and was unprovoked.
"I'm walking off the mound, I'm mad at myself, I didn't say a single word to the umpire, I didn't look at him and he yells at me to throw the ball over the (expletive) plate," Price said. "That's why our dugout went nuts, because everybody heard him say that ... and that's terrible. That's absolutely terrible."
Hallion denied saying the expletive when asked about it by a Tampa Bay pool reporter.
"I'll come right out bluntly and say he's a liar," Hallion said of
Price. "I'm denying what he said I said, pretty strongly. I said,
'Just throw the ball.' That's all I said to him."
Informed of Hallion's response, Price accused the umpire of lying.
During the incident, Evan Longoria got in between Price and Hallion and Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson was ejected.
The start of the seventh started with an interesting decision for
Maddon. Price (1-2) had already thrown 105 pitches, but the game was tied 3-3 and he would've received another no-decision if Maddon had gone to his bullpen. Instead, he let his ace go after the win -- and it turned out to be a good decision.
Conor Gillaspie led off with a single for Chicago, but Price got
Tyler Flowers to line a ball right at shortstop Ben Zobrist, who
doubled off Gillaspie at first after the Sox runner had taken off on a hit-and-run play. Price retired Wise to end it and the Rays then scored three runs in the top of the eighth.
"(I was) very happy," Price said of Maddon's decision. "This is what I work all off-season for, so I can go out there and throw 110 or 115 pitches a game. It feels good to have that confidence behind me from the bench and from our manager to go out there and get outs."
Tampa Bay surged ahead, 4-3, in the eighth on Zobrist's single that scored Sean Rodriguez, but getting two insurance runs on a shallow fly ball to right by Alex Rios, who dropped it on the run with two outs and the bases loaded, was even bigger. The Rays also added two more in the ninth on a two-out rally and the path to victory was paved for Price -- who threw 119 pitches, struck out nine and settled into a groove after Paul Konerko put Chicago up 3-1 in the third with a two-run blast. After that Price retired nine in a row -- five by strikeout -- and allowed just two more hitters to reach base on a walk and Gillaspie's single.
Jose Lobaton and Matt Joyce hit home runs for the Rays (12-13), who dropped the first two games of this series before winning the last two. Zobrist went 3-for-5 with two RBI, while Joyce went 1-for-3 and scored three times in addition to hitting his fourth homer of the season. Fernando Rodney picked up his fourth save with a scoreless ninth.
Dylan Axelrod started for the White Sox and took a no decision after going six innings and leaving with the game tied 3-3 heading to the seventh. He gave up three runs on the home runs by Lobatron and Joyce, but had a solid outing overall.
Chicago, however, went just 3-5 on a scheduled 10-game homestand (two postponed by weather) and now heads out on an eight-game, nine-day trip to Kansas City, Texas and New York to play the Yankees.
They went just 3-7 on their first road trip and continue to deal with a slew of injuries to both position players and pitchers.
"We have a few of the starters out (with injuries), so it becomes a different look ... but I can't look at it like that," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. "We're looking at what you have here and what's available and you go from there. You try and make do and make sure everybody's giving some constant effort. That's all you can ask."
Walks and errors also continue to plague the White Sox, who walked five, committed two errors and dropped to 3-9 when charged with an error.
"It's going to happen (and) you realize that occasionally," Ventura said. "But if we're going to get on an extended run of playing well, you've got to just make those plays."
Chicago took a 1-0 lead in the first inning when Adam Dunn drove Rios in with a two-out single to center field, but Lobaton's solo homer to right tied it 1-1 in the third. Konerko put the Sox back up 3-1 with his shot to left in the bottom of the third, but Joyce matched it in the sixth with his own two-run homer to knot it back up, 3-3.
That set the stage for the Rays to finish off the comeback late.
NOTES: The White Sox placed pitcher Gavin Floyd on the 15-day disabled list with a strained flexor muscle in his right elbow and called up right-hander Deunte Heath from Triple-A Charlotte, who will work out of the bullpen. Hector Santiago, a left-hander who'd been working out of the bullpen, will enter the starting rotation in Floyd's spot. ... John Danks (offseason shoulder surgery) was back in Chicago to find out where he'll be sent on a pending minor league rehab assignment, the next step in his journey back to the White Sox starting rotation. ... Konerko's two-run homer in the third was his 426th and tied him for 45th all-time with Billy Williams. ... Chicago now has six players on the DL with the addition of Floyd, but manager Robin Ventura isn't about to use it as an excuse. "You have to (overcome it)," Ventura said. "There's nothing else (you can do). You'd like to have 'em back, but you just keep going. It can always be worse. In any situation, it can always be worse." ... Lobaton's solo home run in the third extended the Rays' streak of games with at least one home run to 14 straight games, which is one short of the club record. ... Saturday night's 10-4 win featured 19 hits by the Rays, who raised their team batting average by 11 percentage points, from .229 to .240 heading into Sunday's game. They also stranded 14 runners in that game. ... Rays Shortstop Yunel Escobar missed his fourth straight game because of tightness in his hamstring, but might return Tuesday in Kansas City.