By Professor Fred Whitted NORTH CAROLINA (BASN) — The title above...
15 wins and more to come???
Just ask John Jaso, whose bruised left index finger took a beating in trying to catch Price’s final flurry of fastballs.
Price, who struggled to put away Tigers hitters early in the Rays’ 6-3 victory at Comerica Park, knew that with his pitch count above 100, he had to turn it up if he was going to last long enough to pick up his club-record 15th victory.
The All-Star lefty did just that, striking out Miguel Cabrera, Carlos Guillen and Jhonny Peralta swinging on fastballs that clocked at 98, 99 and 100 mph, respectively. That triple-digit fastball was his 115th pitch.
“His fastball was electric (Monday night),” manager Joe Maddon said. “One of these days, he might throw the 115th at 115 (mph). Then we’d really have something to talk about.”
Jaso, who said his finger got “dinged” on a Jeff Frazier swing in the second, said, “That was probably the hardest I’ve seen Price throw.”
“Every time Price would throw that fastball, it would just ring my finger so bad,” Jaso said. “I kind of had to just bear through the pain.”
The struggling Rays offense did score six runs but could have had a lot more, squandering several opportunities.
Ex-Tiger Matt Joyce hit a solo homer and had a sacrifice fly.
Price (15-5), however, didn’t need much support in helping Tampa Bay improve to 68-44 and move to 11/2 back of the first-place Yankees. He scattered five hits while striking out nine, though he walked four. In setting the club record, Price passed James Shields, Edwin Jackson (both 2008) and Rolando Arrojo (1998).
“It’s awesome,” Price said. “It’s a great honor. It’s a lot of hard work, and it’s been fun. But I don’t plan on stopping at 15.”
Price had reliever Chad Qualls partly to thank for preserving his win. Qualls pitched 12/3 scoreless innings, including striking out Cabrera with a man on in the seventh.
“The key to the whole victory was Chad Qualls,” Maddon said. “He got five outs in some difficult moments, against a beefy part of their batting order. If he was unable to do what he did (Monday night), we could not have pieced that together like we did. So he was kind of like the linchpin.”
Evan Longoria made a big defensive play in the eighth, making a leaping snag of a Peralta liner, robbing him of a leadoff single. That out loomed large when, with one out, Brennan Boesch hit a solo homer off Joaquin Benoit, pulling the Tigers to within 4-3.
“That was a huge play,” Maddon said of Longoria’s grab. “He timed that leap perfectly. That ball was scalded.”
Said Boesch: “Longoria is pretty ridiculous over there.”
The Rays added some insurance runs in the top of the ninth, with Jaso and Carl Crawford hitting RBI singles, making it 6-3.
And Price finished with a hard-earned victory, thanks to some hard throwing. Peralta, who is in his eighth big-league season, said he has never seen a left-hander throw so hard.
“I wanted to go with the heater and make them beat me,” Price said. “And I was able to get out of it.”