Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price won 19 games last year by taking the same ultra-competitive approach against every opponent.
And yet he admits that human nature being what it is, he gets a little more excited about pitching against the New York Yankees.
"Yeah, it just happens," Price said. "Whenever you're pitching against the pinstripes, you have a little more in you. That's how it is. It's from their success over forever in baseball. That just comes with it."
Price (5-3, 3.12 ERA) will face A.J. Burnett tonight at Tropicana Field when the first-place Rays and second-place Yankees meet for the first time in 2011. James Shields (4-1, 2.08 ERA) opposes Ivan Nova (3-4, 4.70) on Tuesday night.
Manager Joe Maddon, noting that Price has been dominant in his past two starts, said he doesn't want to see anything extra from the intense lefty tonight.
"What he's been doing is perfectly acceptable against anybody," Maddon said. "I think there is always a concern that if you try to do that, you could actually go backwards. So I'd rather just approach it as another game, do his regular pregame routine and not worry about what it says on the front of the uniform."
The Rays beat the Yankees by one game for the AL East title last year, and Price helped his team win two games against Yankees ace CC Sabathia last September. Overall, Price is 3-1 with a 3.38 ERA in eight games against New York, including 2-0 with a 1.59 ERA at home.
Over his last two starts, Price has allowed only two earned runs on nine hits over 16 2/3 innings.
Although the Rays dropped two of three games to the Baltimore Orioles over the weekend, they're catching the Yankees when they are reeling. New York sits two games back in the standings after being swept in three games by the Red Sox, who have climbed to .500 after a horrid start.
The Yankees have lost five in a row and nine of 12, and a bad vibe has surrounded the team since struggling veteran DH Jorge Posada asked out of the lineup Saturday after being dropped to ninth in the batting order.
ESPN's Buster Olney reported today that he has been told that Yankees management was "surprised and frustrated" by comments to reporters from team captain Derek Jeter that were sympathetic to Posada.
Jeter said there was no reason for Posada to apologize to teammates for declining to play, and said that he if thought Posada had done something wrong, "I'd be the first to tell him."
Not only is this week's series the first year of the season between the Rays and Yankees, but it's also the only two times they'll play over the first 97 games of the season.
Of course, that means they'll be playing a lot late in the season – including five times in their final eight days.
"When we get to September, it'll be every other night we're playing the Yankees and Red Sox," Price said. "Get ready for it.
"If you're in the hunt there in September, you have a chance, that's' for sure. That'll be good."