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Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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Martin Fennelly Columns

Fennelly: Price delivers in Texas-sized way

ARLINGTON, Texas — There were tears in his eyes when it was done.

We have no idea how much longer David Price will be with the Tampa Bay Rays. Neither does he.

Will he be gone before next season? During next season? After next season?

All we know is that he owed his team a night like this, he owed himself and that Cy Young Award he won last year a night like this.

And he definitely owed the Texas Rangers.

He delivered. Oh, did he deliver, completely, nine full innings, 118 pitches, all the way in 163,

“That was pretty special,” Price said.

It's on to Cleveland after a 5-2 tiebreaker win.

“That's our ace,” Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist said, simply.

That's the ace.

David Price willed his team into October with his left arm — and his legs and brain on one spectacular play — more than even Evan Longoria did with his bat.

There were tears in his eyes when he was done.

Before the mad clump of celebration began on the field, before the champagne, Price locked eyes with Longoria as Longo ran toward him.

“That's what I'm talking about,” Price screamed.

He'd visualized this, he said. Or did he dream it?

“It might have been both,” Price said.

It was his finest hour, by his own admission his biggest win as a pitcher.

And there were tears.

“It was awesome to feel that emotion from him,” Longoria said.

Price started it and he finished it. He kept getting stronger and stronger, until Joe Maddon didn't even think twice about sending him out there inning after inning, to the very end.

“He was the man tonight,” Maddon said.

What a remarkable performance.

Price beat the Rangers, a team he never beats, a team that beats him up, in fact — three times across consecutive postseasons, 0-3. His career numbers: 1-7, 5.57 ERA.

Not even bat-blind umpiring interceded. How does a six-umpire crew miss that trapped sinking liner off Delmon Young's bat in the seventh? It was blown by an ump aptly named Bruce Dreckman. It cost the Rays a run.

It didn't stop them. It didn't stop Price.

He was amazing.

It wasn't always dominating Price. He hasn't been that all that much this season, just nine wins heading into Monday.

“I know that it's been a rough year for him. He's had his ups and downs,” Longoria said.

And these were the Rangers.

But Price was all over this game. The Rays fed off him. He was a winner. He was heart and more heart. He was tough and tougher. He set the tone all night. The man simply would not give in.

The Rangers couldn't get to him. Neither could that robbery by Bartman — I mean Dreckman.

He gave up seven hits. He gave up two runs. He struck out four and walked one. He got into his share of jams, but he got out of most of them.

He picked off one Ranger at first base and caught another trying to steal. In the sixth, after a single and then a double brought the Rangers to within 4-2, Price got the ever-dangerous Adrian Beltre on a grounder and A.J. Pierzynski on a come-backer. Then he pitched a perfect seventh.

Best of all, drugstore cowboy Nelson Cruz, fresh from his 50-game PED suspension, went hitless.

Well, not best of all. That came in the eighth. Ian Kinsler doubled with one out. Price was over 100 pitches. Elvis Andrus pushed a bunt to the right side, looking for a hit.

Price raced from the mound, scooped up the baseball and shoveled it straight from the glove to Rays first baseman James Loney. What a fabulous play from a fabulous athlete. Price got Alex Rios to end the inning.

His teammates spotted him a 3-0 lead, then a 4-1 lead, two of the runs on a home run by the third baseman, who rather enjoys these final regular season games ... 162, 163, it doesn't matter to Longoria.

It wasn't a postseason game, officially, rather a tiebreaker, Game 163.

Don't be fooled. This was as much the postseason as Wednesday's Rays-Indians wild-card playoff will be.

And David Price said he wanted a piece of this game.

“This is the moment I want to be in,” he said the day before he pitched.

Remember when he closed out the Red Sox in Game 7 of the 2008 ALCS?

It's easier to do this morning.

Maybe his confidence hadn't wavered, but ours had, when it came to Price in pressure games, when it came to the postseason, or close to it, especially when it came to the Rangers. He kept coming up Texas toast.

Then came Monday.

Now comes Wednesday.

David Price was in the moment he wanted and pitched like it.

Who knows how long he'll be here.

But remember his 163. And those tears.

That was the ace.

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