ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — David Price walked off the mound slowly, raising concern that the AL’s first 11-game winner might be headed for a stint on the disabled list.
Tampa Bay’s hard-throwing left-hander insisted that’s not the case after outpitching Justin Verlander to beat the Detroit Tigers 4-2 on Friday night, stressing that the Rays’ decision to remove him after seven innings because of lower back tightness was purely precautionary.
“I’ll be fine,” Price said, adding that he expects to make his next scheduled start.
The Rays beat Verlander, the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner, for the second time this season to end a four-game skid in which they played sloppy defense and struggled to score.
Price (11-4) allowed two runs and five hits before exiting after going out to the mound to warm up for the eighth inning. He threw 78 pitches, struck out seven and walked one.
Price said he felt some discomfort after throwing a fastball to Prince Fielder in the seventh. When he returned to the dugout, Price put a heating pad on his back to try to stay loose.
“Any time a pitcher’s going to tell me that the back is bothering him, I’m definitely going to take him out of the game,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
“It just tightened up on me a little bit,” Price added. “It’s something we need to be careful with.”
Jennings hadn’t homered in more than two months, yet went deep against Verlander (8-5) leading off the third and fifth innings. Ben Zobrist hit a solo homer off the Tigers starter, who struck out eight and walked one while throwing 120 pitches and allowing four runs and six hits over six innings.
“Not very good. You know the old saying, solo homers don’t hurt you does not apply tonight, not when you give up three of them,” Verlander said. “Just fell behind some guys and put them in fastball counts and they were able to take advantage of it.”
Delmon Young hit a solo homer in the fifth and had two of Detroit’s hits off Price. Fielder drove in the Tigers’ other run when he grounded out in the seventh.
The Rays were outscored 26-8 during a losing streak that matched their longest of the season. Even more troubling has been that they have hurt themselves lately with uncharacteristic mistakes, especially on defense.
Jennings led a stellar defensive effort Friday night, making a nice running catch while falling into the stands in left field in the third inning. The Rays turned three double plays in support of Price. Jake McGee worked the eighth, and Fernando Rodney finished up, earning his 22nd save in 23 opportunities.
“Two outstanding pitchers going at it,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “Tonight, their guy got the best of it.”
Despite walking Ramon Santiago in the first and yielding singles to Young in the second and Austin Jackson in the fourth, Price faced the minimum 12 batters over the first four innings — thanks to two inning-ending double plays and Jackson being thrown out attempting to steal second base.
Verlander, meanwhile, allowed three homers in a game for the first time this season. The New York Yankees went deep on the Tigers ace twice in beating him on April 27 and June 3, meaning that seven of the 10 homers Verlander has allowed this season have come in the four starts he has made against those teams.
“It’s kind of like walking a tightrope because against a guy like Price you know you’re not going to get many runs,” Verlander said.
The first 10,000 fans entering the park received Zim Bear dolls bearing the likeness of Rays senior advisor Don Zimmer. The promotion was so popular that the team has ordered 10,000 more dolls and plan to give them away at a future game. … The Rays were one of the best defensive teams in baseball in making the playoffs three of the past four seasons, however they haven’t been nearly as sharp this season. They have already committed 66 errors after having a major league-low 73 last year. They have had 18 multi-error games this year compared to 11 in 2011. … Leyland said OF Andy Dirks (right Achilles tendinitis) was not cleared to resume baseball activities after being re-examined Friday. … Rays RHP Jeremy Hellickson (right shoulder inflammation) is set to come off the 15-day DL and start Saturday night. The Tigers will counter with RHP Rick Porcello. Hellickson, the 2011 AL rookie of the year, missed two starts while on the DL.
Price outduels Verlander to pick up 11th win
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