David Price has returned to the form that made him a Cy Young Award winner in the 2012 season. The Tampa Bay Rays ace's latest achievement since returning from the DL was a nine-inning start against the San Francisco Giants.
The game marked the fourth time in his last six starts that he has pitched nine innings. He became the first Rays pitcher since Wade Davis in 2011 to complete nine innings and get a no-decision. His 105 pitches also marked the first time he has thrown over 100 pitches since returning to the rotation.
Price looked nothing like a defending Cy Young Award winner at the beginning of the season. After nine starts he had a 1-4 record with a 5.24 ERA. Opposing batters compiled a .294/.340/.471 line against him before he went on the DL.
Since returning from the DL, Price has been right.
In his seven starts since his return, he is 5-1 with a 1.57 ERA. Opposing batters have been relegated to a .189/.193/.303 line and have returned to their regularly scheduled struggle against him every five days.
Rays manager Joe Maddon believes this is the best stretch he has ever seen from Price. He echoed those thoughts after Saturday night's win:
Even in the Cy Young year last year, I don’t know that I’ve seen him in a stretch like this where he pitched this well, this consistently. And I’m talking about pitch efficiency, meaning number of pitches, location, command within the strike zone, velocity. All the other things that he’s doing – the cutter, the curve, the changeup, the delivery – all that stuff is better now than it had been last year.
The Rays need Price performing at full capability in order to have any dreams of postseason success. Specifically, they need him to give them at least seven quality innings. This season the Rays are 8-2 in games where he goes at least seven innings and 0-6 when he doesn’t.
In his postgame comments Saturday night, Price made it clear he wants to be the guy on the mound to record the final out in every game he starts.
Absolutely. I want to go out there and if I don’t go nine (innings), I want to go 10. That’s what I tell our guys every time I take the ball out there. I want to make sure I get the last out. I want to give that bullpen a complete day off and that was big for us tonight.
His success has not only impacted his starts, it has fueled a resurgence of the entire pitching staff. Saturday night marked the eighth time since July that a Rays pitcher has thrown nine innings.
Rookie Chris Archer has completed two complete games in the stretch and always mentions being inspired by Price in interviews. Even Roberto Hernandez, the fifth Beatle of the Rays rotation, got into the complete-game action on July 30.
With Price back in ace form and the other starters feeding off of his energy, the Rays rotation is back to looking like the best in all of baseball.
All quotes obtained from official Tampa Bay Rays postgame notes.