ST. PETERSBURG – Scouts from a half-dozen teams that might be looking later this summer for a top-shelf starting pitcher certainly left Tropicana Field on Friday night impressed with what they saw in David Price.
And what was not to like?
Price continued his run of double-digit strikeout games with a performance certainly worthy of a better result. But Price made one bad pitch – a hanging changeup to George Springer – and that was the ballgame.
The Astros won 3-1, thanks in part to Springer’s two-run homer in the third inning and the pitching of Jarred Cosart, who has owned the Rays since he reached the big leagues last July.
“He’s probably pitching as good as he can,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said of Price. “You talk about unfortunate because we’re wasting a lot of good pitching with him.”
It was a milestone night for Price, despite taking the loss and falling to 5-7 for the season.
The left-hander joined his close friend James Shields as the only pitchers in team history to record 1,000 strikeouts. Price reached that plateau in the second inning when he got Chris Carter looking at a called third strike.
Shields holds the team record with 1,250 strikeouts.
Price finished with 12 strikeouts, tying his season-high. It was his fourth straight game with at least 10 strikeouts -- a franchise record. He also became the first major league pitcher to do that since Boston’s Jon Lester in 2010.
It was also the seventh game this season in which Price struck out at least 10 batters, which extends his club record.
Price took over the major league in strikeouts with 133.
“It’s cool. Absolutely. Can’t deny that,” Price said. “But it stinks. You want to win out there. Our team wants to win and we’re not doing that right now. It’s frustrating.”
Price has pitched eight innings in three consecutive starts and four times in his last six. He has pitched at least eight innings a major league-best seven times this season. He’s 4-2 with a no-decision in those games.
Yet, all that wasn’t enough Friday against the Astros.
“That part is frustrating for him and for us,” Maddon said.
Astros second baseman Jose Altuve had three of the six hits Price allowed.
“I just got lucky against him,” Altuve said. “He was throwing the ball real good.”
Said Astros manager Bo Porter, “Price did a tremendous job, and Cosart was outstanding.”
Cosart scattered six hits over eight innings to improve to 3-0 and lower his ERA to 1.17 in three career starts against the Rays.
“He pitched well,” Maddon said. “He pitches well against us every time we face him.”
But, Maddon added, his pitcher pitched pretty well, too.
“You have to figure out a way to score a couple of runs,” Maddon said. “It comes back to the proverbial runner in scoring position. … When you don’t hit you can’t cover (offensive shortcomings). (Price) was great. He wasn’t good, he was great.”
The Rays got one hit in seven at-bats with a runner in scoring position, and that was a two-out single in the bottom of the ninth by Yunel Escobar that scored Evan Longoria and prevented the Rays from being shutout for the seventh time this month. That would be a team record, since their six shutouts this month are tied for the most in one month.
A solo homer by Jonathan Villar in the top of the inning provided a much-needed insurance for the Astros.
Until then, Springer provided all the runs the Astros would nee with his 13th homer of the season – a blast off the D-ring catwalk in left field.
It was the 23rd time the D-ring has been struck with a baseball, the first since Mitch Moreland of the Rangers reached it on May 30, 2011.
Like Alex Cobb, who didn’t allowed an unearned run in seven innings earlier this week against the Orioles, Price deserved a better fate. He also knew he’s pitching with little margin for error given the Rays offensive shortcomings.
“If we got to go nine scoreless innings and win a game, that’s not the way you want to do it,” Price said when asked about one pitch making all the difference.
The big hits that showed up Thursday were a no-show Friday as they lost for the third time in four games.
Fans were treated to Jose Molina’s first stolen base of the season and another amazing catch by rookie right fielder Kevin Kiermaier, this one a sliding catch into the Rays bullpen.
Jerry Sands and Brandon Guyer had back-to-back one-out singles in the second inning, but the threat was erased when Yunel Escobar grounded back to Cosart, who started an inning-ending double play.
Molina, with the help of his stolen base, reached third base the following inning but was stranded.
The Rays had two hits in the eighth inning, but pinch-runner Sean Rodriguez was thrown out trying to advance to second on a ball in the dirt.
“You have to be able to make that,” Maddon said.
Logan Forsythe then singled, which would have put two on with no out. Instead of one on with one out and made it a much easier inning for Cosart.
Chad Qualls replaced Cosart in the ninth and the Rays quickly put the first two runners aboard. Longoria reached on an error, and James Loney dropped an opposite field single to left field. But pinch-hitter Matt Joyce struck out, and Ben Zobrist, also pinch-hitting, hit into a force play. Escobar singled to end the shutout, but that was as close as the Rays would get.
Maddon called the offensive effort the night Cobb lost a “mortal sin.”
When asked if Friday’s offensive showing was equally as sinful, Maddon said, “We’ve committed many this year. We’re going to need a special audience with the new Pope in order to cleanse our souls and move on. Our offensive souls, they have not been very offensive in some ways and very offensive in others.”