Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar made the dazzling play that people were talking about tweeting about and tuning in to highlights shows to see after Wednesday's 5-1 win. But David Price delivered the performance worthy of deep thought a 97-pitch compete-game five-hit masterpiece against the potent Red Sox that extended his post-disabled-list run and raised the startling possibility that he is pitching better now than last season when he won 20 games and the American League Cy Young Award. "It's hard to imagine a guy pitching better than he is right now" manager Joe Maddon said. "It's the strike-throwing component that has been unbelievable. … The velocity is up everything is up. It's just a sharper version of last year." Would Price agree? "Absolutely" he said. The difference he said is that last year he had "complete control" of just his fastball and cutter. This year he has mastered the curve and changeup as well. "I feel good with all four of my pitches right now and I'm throwing strikes" he said. In his five starts since returning from the DL Price is 4-1 with a 1.75 ERA and he has three complete games of under 100 pitches each in his past four the first pitcher to accomplishment that since at least 1999 (the first year for complete pitch-count data). Price has thrown 330 of his 450 post-DL pitches for strikes a remarkable 73.3 percent including 72 of 97 Wednesday luring the typically patient Red Sox out of their standard approach. "You could see they wanted to take more pitches but they couldn't because he kept throwing strikes" Maddon said. Price got what little help he needed in a three-run third. Rookie Wil Myers singled in the first two runs and Ben Zobrist scored on Luke Scott's sacrifice fly. The win moved the Rays to within a half-game of the American League East leading-Sox with a chance to take over in tonight's series finale. They won for the 19th time in 22 games 22nd in 27 and improved to 60-42. Since a 14-18 start they are a majors-best 46-24 and on pace for 95 wins. "It's always nice to be in first place" Maddon said. "I'm really more apt to read a newspaper at that point and watch TV at night." If he tuned in Wednesday he was sure to see Escobar's fourth-inning dazzler that started a double play. Escobar went to his left to snare Dustin Pedroia's grounder then in one smooth motion flipped the ball behind his back directly from his glove to second baseman Ben Zobrist who made a barehanded grab and relayed to first. "That is the best play I've ever seen behind me" Price said.
Price throws complete game as Rays beat Red Sox
Tampa Bay Times | Jul 25