When David Price prepared to make his debut with the Detroit Tigers, it had to be nice knowing he'd face a familiar foe. The Yankees made sure that feeling dissipated quickly.
Martin Prado and Brian McCann each went yard and Jacoby Ellsbury hit a run-scoring double as New York put up three runs in the first five innings. Then Price reminded everyone why he was the trade deadline's most coveted asset.
The former Rays ace settled down and got into a groove as the game went along, hitting the showers having allowed only those three runs in 8.2 innings of work. Price exited with the Yankees' potential game-winning run on first in the bottom of the ninth, with the score tied 3-3. Reliever Joba Chamberlain recorded the final out of the frame to send the game into extra innings.
Price wound up with a no-decision, but the Tigers would eventually win 4-3 in 12 innings.
Hiroki Kuroda, who started for the Yankees, gave up three runs in his seven innings of work. He left after giving up a run in the sixth and seventh to take Price off the hook.
Price was making his first start since being traded to Detroit in a three-team deal featuring the Rays and Mariners.
The lefty fanned 10 Yankees hitters and seemed motivated by the two home runs he gave up, recording easy outs in his final few innings.
But it'll likely be those momentary bouts with mislocation that he'll be thinking about later on Tuesday night.
After Victor Martinez's sacrifice fly in the first gave the Tigers a 1-0 lead, Price entered the second seemingly in full command. He struck out Carlos Beltran in a hard-fought, seven-pitch at-bat and then started off with a well-placed ball to McCann. But the Yankees catcher sent a mistake from Price on the next pitch just barely over the right-field fence to even the score.
As ESPN Stats & Info noted, Price has been one of a select few pitchers McCann has dominated since moving to the AL East:
His next mistakes came an inning later, when Price allowed Brendan Ryan and Ellsbury to drill doubles he was lucky didn't go over the fence. Ryan led off the inning with a shot to deep left and scored from third when Ellsbury, another offseason Yankees signing, sent another ball into the left-field gap.
An uneventful fourth followed, but he was back to watching a ball sail over the fence in the fifth. Prado went ahead 2-0 in the count and got a hanging breaking ball on his third pitch, keeping his weight back and rocketing it over the left-field fence. It was Prado's first home run since his deadline trade to the Yankees and his sixth of the season.
Chris Iott of MLive.com made note of Price's preference to stay ahead in the count:
Jimmy Traina provided the John Sterling call for Prado's shot, which put New York ahead 3-1:
The final four innings were among Price's least eventful. He allowed Prado to get the best of him again for a double in the seventh and allowed a no-out single in the ninth, but the Yankees failed to take advantage. Price was mostly able to force easy outs by pitching to contact. He only struck out two batters from the sixth through his exit, instead inducing a series of lazy ground outs.
Still, as SB Nation's MLB Twitter feed notes, Price now leads the league in strikeouts:
Manager Brad Ausmus pulled him after a strikeout of Chase Headley in the ninth. He threw a remarkable 78 of his 112 pitches for strikes. His final line in many ways mirrors his last two with the Rays. Price has now given up exactly three runs and gone at least seven innings in three straight starts.
His streak of quality starts now stands at 13. If Tigers fans were hoping for a glimpse of the workhorse who has been the backbone of Tampa's rotation for the last six years, they got what they bargained for. Writer Matt Sussman highlighted Price's bulldog mentality:
The former Cy Young Award winner has one more year left of team control after this one, but he was brought in largely as part of an all-in push for 2014.
The Tigers now have a stake at the best starting rotation in baseball. They are the first team in history to have the last three AL Cy Young winners—Price, Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander. Detroit is the seventh franchise in history to have three former Cy Young winners on its roster at the same time, discounting the order with which they won.
Add 13-game winner Rick Porcello and the criminally underrated Anibal Sanchez to the mix, and the Tigers have a world-beating rotation that will give Brad Ausmus fits deciding who to sit in the postseason. There has even been a growing sentiment about putting Verlander, a mainstay atop the rotation and a beloved figure in the city, in a closer or middle-relief role.
That sentence alone says all it needs to about the pressure on Price.
"It does add a little bit of pressure," Price told reporters of coming to Detroit, "but in Tampa I was looked at as the difference-maker as well—not only the difference-maker, but just the leader of the staff. This staff, there's five leaders, I feel like, with the way that these guys are throwing the baseball. I guess if Rick Porcello is our five, that's pretty remarkable, the way he's thrown the ball this year as well."
Price also mentioned pressure being a self-created phenomenon, a quote that could have proved ironic had his shaky start continued. In the first few innings, it did indeed look like Price was pressing himself to create and impression and was leaving pitches hanging.
In the end, though, Price did as he usually does. He excelled. If this is a sign of things to come, the Tigers will have gotten exactly what they bargained for on deadline day.
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