Tampa Bay Rays
Cy Young winners face off at Tropicana Field
ST. PETERSBURG -
More uncommon than a no-hitter, a perfect game or even an unassisted triple play, it is one of baseball’s true rarities. And it will happen tonight at Tropicana Field.
For only the third time since the honor was first handed out in both leagues in 1969, the two reigning Cy Young Award winners will square off against one another when the Rays’ David Price takes on the Blue Jays’ R.A. Dickey.
Seldom has a matchup so atypical seemed so ordinary.
At 1-3 with a 6.25 ERA, 2012 A.L. Cy Young winner Price is off to his worst start ever while Dickey, who won the N.L. Cy Young with the Mets last year, checks in with a 2-5 record and 5.36 ERA.
Talk about rarities. This is only the third time two reigning Cy Young winners have combined for three wins or less this deep into a season and only the second time it wasn’t the result of one of the pitchers being on the disabled list.
Is it any wonder Price and Dickey are approaching the matchup with a shrug.
“I agree that it’s rare but as far as something to celebrate like you normally would with rare things, not so much,’’ Dickey said. “I think we would both like to be in different places at this point.’’
Price confirmed as much Wednesday, saying he knows he and Dickey can both pitch better than they have so far this season.
As it is, it has gone virtually unnoticed, even by those directly associated with it. For instance, Rays manager Joe Maddon didn’t even realize history was going to be made tonight until a reporter told him about it Monday.
“To me, it’s Thursday and another night game,’’ Maddon said. “But beyond that, I think it’s more of something for ESPN and the MLB Network to talk about. And that’s cool, because it is interesting.
“But to be honest, that kind of stuff really does get lost on me. Really, I don’t pay much attention to any of that. The award stuff and all that – it’s cool but I don’t really think about it. That was last year.’’
For Price and Dickey, last year was about as good as it gets. Price became only the fifth A.L. pitcher since 1980 to win 20 games (20-5), strike out 200 or more batters (205) and have a 2.56 ERA or lower.
Dickey, meanwhile, became the first Mets pitcher since Dwight Gooden and the first knuckleballer ever to win the award after compiling a 20-6 record, a 2.73 ERA and leading a N.L.-best 230 strikeouts.
“Maybe if they were pitching like they did last year – you know, if one of them was 9-1 and the other was 8-1 – it would be different,’’ Rays senior adviser Don Zimmer said. “But they’re struggling. So it’s really just another game.’’
Not everyone feels that way. Blue Jays manager John Gibbons, a former Mets catcher who caught Gooden a couple of times during his brief career, believes this is more than just another game.
“It’s pretty special,’’ Gibbons said. “I mean, it obviously doesn’t happen that often. And you really have to tip your hat to those guys because they are two of the best in baseball.
“Maybe neither one has really had his normal year yet, but when it’s all said and done, at the end of the year, I believe they’ll both be where they were expected to be all along.’’
Price certainly feels that way. His start this year has shaken the confidence of some but it has barely nudged his, and he said Wednesday he believes a turnaround is imminent.
“I get my work in every four days and then I go out there and compete and that’s what I’m going to stick to,’’ he said. “I’m confident my results are going to change very soon.’’