A postseason disappointment a year ago when he lost twice in the opening round to the only AL opponent he’s never beaten, the young Tampa Bay pitcher will get a chance to redeem himself Monday when he goes against right-hander Colby Lewis(notes) in Game 3 of the AL division series between the Rays and Rangers.
The teams are tied 1-1 after splitting two games in Texas. The Rays say they’re comfortable putting the ball in Price’s hand, even though the hard-throwing lefty hasn’t won in more than a month and was 0-2 with a 4.97 ERA in a pair of losses at home to Cliff Lee(notes) in the 2010 ALDS.
[Y! Sports Shop: Show off your team support with playoffs garb]
“It’s pretty unique … a good opportunity for me to have,” Price said Sunday, conceding that his lack of success against the AL West champions is not easy to shove to the back of his mind.
The 25-year-old is 0-3 with a 5.67 ERA in six career regular season starts against Texas, including a 3-0 loss to Lewis and the Rangers at Tropicana Field on June 1.
“It is something that I think about and something that I want to get over with,” Price said. “I am not intimidated by this lineup by any means or anything like that. It is a very good offensive lineup, and they make it tough to pitch. But it’s postseason baseball, and you have to be able to step up and make some pitches for your team.”
The No. 1 pick in the 2007 amateur draft made an impressive postseason debut as rookie in 2008, making five relief appearances following a September call-up to play a key role in Tampa Bay’s surprising run to the World Series.
He went 12-13 this season and was 0-2 over six September starts for his first winless month in three years as a starter.
“That’s unacceptable,” said Price, who will be starting an important game for the second time in less than a week.
The two-time All-Star committed two costly throwing errors and allowed six runs in four innings to New York last Wednesday night, when the Rays entered their regular season finale tied with Boston for the wild card. The Rays overcame the subpar performance when they rallied from a late seven-run deficit to beat the Yankees and clinch their third playoff berth in four years.
Teammates have faith that Price will rebound against the Rangers.
“David’s the kind of guy that, I think, no matter what kind of knockout blow he takes, he’s always going to get up and keep going, try to find something from that experience to make him better, something to take away that he can turn into a positive,” Rays third baseman Evan Longoria(notes) said.
“He took those two (playoff losses last season) and everything that happened to him this year and learned from it,” Longoria added. “I’m looking forward to watching him pitch. I have no doubts about putting him out there against anybody in any situation. I would not put anybody else out there. He just has the desire to win.”
[Postseason tickets: Watch your favorite team in action]
Rangers manager Ron Washington selected Price for the AL All-Star team this summer, even though the young pitcher has not had much success against Texas.
He explained why Sunday before the Rangers held a light workout.
“Well, when you look at him you can see he has tremendous competitive spirit. And in the game of baseball that’s what you have to have. You have to be able to deal with the adversity of what this game entails, and he does a good job at that,” Washington said.
“We know our hands will be full (Monday), and we just look forward to competiting against him. And that’s what it’s all about. He will bring his best game, and we certainly better bring ours.”
The Rangers lost the series opener 8-0 to rookie Matt Moore(notes), but bounced back to beat Rays ace James Shields(notes) 8-6 in Game 2. Lewis is 3-0 in four career starts against Tampa Bay, and also worked five scoreless innings of a no decision against the Rays in Game 3 of last year’s ALDS.
The Rays were ecstatic to return home with a split, and feel good about their chances of wrapping up the best-of-five series without having to head back to Texas for a fifth game. The Rangers won three road games here during the 2010 ALDS and feel good about their prospects, too.