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Tuesday, Apr 24, 2018
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Martin Fennelly Columns

Looks like the Rays Way will survive after all

— And now for something completely different: Thursday's starting pitchers hugged in the outfield before warming up.

“I've never done that,” David Price said after. “So that was weird.”

“It was in dead center, right before the game,” Alex Cobb said.

Then Price and Cobb, Rays pitching greatness, past and present, went front and center. They dazzled with performances that wouldn't let go in a 1-0 Rays win in Price's return to Tropicana Field.

“I thought they would both be inspired,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.

Every time Price was on the mound for his new team, the Detroit Tigers, there were alarm bells: You figured the Rays would never be the same, that they traded away more than a Cy Young winner.

And then Cobb would take over.

Price threw one of the best games of his life: eight innings, his first-one hitter, nine strikeouts, no walks — not even one three-ball count. He retired the final 23 Rays he faced after Brandon Guyer's first-inning triple brought home the game's only run, an unearned run at that. An inspiring return performance.

In the bottom of the first, Price walked to the mound. Many in the crowd of 19,189 rose and clapped.

“When they kept cheering, I kind of had to step off,” Price said. “That was a good feeling.”

And then he lost 1-0.

Gee, D.P., did you really have to go all the way to Detroit to get no run support?

You could have stayed here and gotten that.

When Price sat down, Cobb stood up, and you became convinced the Rays Way will survive after all.

Seven innings, two hits, Cobb all in, total bulldog, no runs for the freshly minted Rays No. 1 starter. Not that they give them numbers, but Cobb threw like it and you figured, at least Thursday, the Rays might manage just fine without Price. Alex Cobb is 7-0 with a 1.99 ERA in his past 10 starts.

Yes, a year from now, we might still be talking about the Rays' great starting pitching (Cobb, Moore, Archer, Hellickson and Smyly) and how if only they could hit ...

Actually, we've been talking about that for years.

One day we'll probably be talking about it in French.

Oh, that new ballpark …

“The goal is to not miss a beat with David gone,” Cobb said. “It's very tough. But David and (James) Shields have laid such a good foundation for us to carry on. It shouldn't be too difficult. The smoothness of the transition, you can look back on it, is directly related to what David and Shields did.”

A wonderful day for pitching.

“It was fun to watch,” Rays third baseman Evan Longoria said. “It was not nearly as fun on the other side, to face David.”

Longoria struck out the first two times they faced each other. Longoria crushed a Price change-up in the seventh, but it was just a long out. Price was mostly about his business, though there was one moment. Sean Rodriguez nearly hit a homer off Price in the fifth inning.

“Roddy, when he flew out to right field at the wall and Torii (Hunter) made that great catch, we kind of looked at each other and smiled,” Price said.

The Rays bullpen closed it out. In the eighth, defensive sub Kevin Kiermaier made a spectacular diving catch in right to help save the game. A throwing error by Detroit shortstop Eugenio Suarez, right before Guyer's triple, was the keyhole the Rays somehow passed through Thursday.

David Price knows that formula: Pitching and defense.

“That's what we did a long time while we were here and that's what they did today,” Price said.

He was asked again about Cobb.

“He's super competitive,” Price said. “He knew what he had to do today.”

They both did.

Give that game a hug.

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