On Thursday afternoon, David Price pitched against the Rays for the first time since being traded to the Tigers on July 31. The 28-year-old lefty was as brilliant as ever, striking out nine and yielding just one hit without walking a single batter, but unfortunately, that hit — a first-inning triple by Brandon Guyer — plated the game's only run.
Coming around to score on Guyer's one-out hit into the right-centerfield gap was Ben Zobrist, who had reached first via a throwing error by shortstop Eugenio Suarez. Price escaped further damage by striking out both Evan Longoria and Wil Myers, but the slumping Tigers couldn't do anything with the four hits and two walks they collected off Rays starter Alex Cobb and the two relievers who followed him. The Tigers went 0-for-7 with runners in scoring position, a tally that included stranding runners at third base in the third (Alex Avila, who reached with two outs) and seventh (Torii Hunter, who reached with one out).
It was the toughest of losses, and not just because the defeat was the Tigers' ninth in their last 15 games, a stretch that has dropped them six games in the AL Central standings — from leading the division by 4 1/2 games to falling 1 1/2 behind the Royals. Price's Game Score of 87 tied his career high, set via a four-hit shutout of the Blue Jays on Apr. 25, 2010. Here's his previous top-10 starts in that category, all of which came as a member of the Rays:
|5/5/11||Blue Jays||8 2/3||4||1/0||0||10||118||84|
Beyond that, Price's Game Score tied for the third-highest of any losing pitcher in the post-1993 expansion era:
|James Shields, Rays||10/2/12||Orioles||9||2||1/1||0||15||94|
|Kevin Appier, Royals||7/27/93||Rangers||9||1||1/1||1||11||91|
|Pedro Martinez, Red Sox||5/6/2000||Devil Rays||9||6||1/1||1||17||87|
|Stephen Strasburg, Nationals||7/24/13||Pirates||8||2||1/1||0||12||86|
|Cliff Lee, Phillies||9/27/13||Braves||8||3||1/1||0||13||85|
|Justin Masterson, Indians||9/30/09||White Sox||9||4||1/1||2||12||85|
|Jon Lieber, Cubs||5/29/00||Braves||8||2||1/1||1||12||85|
|Chad Billingsley, Dodgers||5/14/11||D-backs||8||1||1/0||2||8||84|
|Freddy Garcia, Mariners||8/7/99||Yankees||9||3||1/1||3||10||84|
Ouch. Additionally, Price was the first pitcher to throw a complete-game one-hitter and lose since the Cardinals' Anthony Reyes on June 22, 2006 against the White Sox, and the first to throw a complete-game one-hitter in which the only knock was a triple since the Cubs' Frank Castillo on Sept. 25, 1995 against the Cardinals.
For all of that, Price has lived up to his end of the three-way trade that sent him to the Motor City. In four starts, he’s delivered a 2.35 ERA in 30 2/3 innings. He's pitched at least eight innings in three of those four starts, and twice struck out at least nine without walking a single batter. He has seven such starts this year including his time with the Rays, tying Clayton Kershaw for the major league lead; no other pitcher has more than four. His 221 strikeouts are both the American League's highest total and a career high, surpassing the 218 he tallied in 2011.
It’s the run support that’s been lacking. Price came into Thursday’s start having received just 3.6 runs per game of support, the lowest rate among qualified starters. His teams have been the victim of three shutouts, scored one run twice, and two runs seven times; they’re 3-9 in those games.