David Price threw his fourth complete game of the year, making a statement in the process.
With his seven-hit, two-run, four-strikeout performance, Price showed he is an elite pitcher who deserves to be mentioned in the same sentence as other great starting pitchers.
While many would consider 2013 a down year for Price with his 10 wins and 3.33 ERA, he came up huge when it counted the most for the Rays. And for a pitcher who had one win in 11 career starts against the Rangers, his pitching was the difference.
When it looked as if he was a pitch or two from being pulled from the game, Price came up with some big pitches.
So, what from this game made Price elite?
His Approach Against the Bottom of the Lineup
The biggest key to the game was the fact that Price held hitters Nos. 5 through 9 to two hits in 17 at-bats. Only Mitch Moreland and Craig Gentry got on base. And although Gentry did score one of the two Texas runs, the game saw basically no support for the top of the lineup.
The top four in the lineup were 5-for-15 with three doubles and two RBI. But after the lineup passed Adrian Beltre in the No. 4 hole, there was nothing.
Leonys Martin was able to move Gentry to second on a groundout in the third that allowed Ian Kinsler to single him in next. But when Moreland singled in the fifth, Gentry struck out and Martin grounded out to end the inning.
Price didn't allow the lineup to turn over to Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus, who could do some damage.
Big Pitches in Big Situations
Price made a few mistakes on the evening, but he followed up with few mistakes afterwards.
In the second inning, he allowed a leadoff double to Beltre. But he then got a strikeout, line-out and fly-out to get out of the inning. And Beltre was left standing on second.
After Alex Rios doubled to left-center to bring the score to 4-2, Price induced two groundouts to get out of the inning.
Price also had two big moves to first base. The first came in the bottom of the first after walking Andrus. He was leaning too much, and Price got him.
The second came in the third inning when he made another move to first, but this time Kinsler was running. Price calmly threw to James Loney, who threw to Yunel Escobar, who applied the tag on Kinsler for the out.
He kept hitters off-balance all night. When you look at his pitch stats (according to Brooksbaseball.net), you see how well he mixed his pitches. Of the 118 pitches he threw, 47 were sinkers with an average velocity of 84.14 mph.
It was also the pitch he went to more times than not with two strikes, throwing it 14 of 33 times. And when he threw the sinker with two strikes, it was swung at 71.43 percent of the time, with a grounder or foul induced 57 percent of the time.
Price simply made the pitches he needed to and didn't allow manager Joe Maddon to take him out of the game.
Simply put, nobody was stopping Price in this game.
Enough to Win
To be an elite starter, it's not always about getting double-digit strikeouts and overpowering opposing hitters.
Elite starters get the job done, no matter the situation. They'll give up a run here and there, but when it comes down to making a great pitch in a big situation, they get the job done.
Price bent a little in Monday's game, but he hung in there and showed he was the de facto ace on the Rays.
It was an overall great performance by Price and one that should leave no question about his ace status.
Now, the only question is if he'll get to prove it one more time this year. If so, a performance like Monday's will be expected throughout the rest of the playoffs.