With David Price’s Return, The Tampa Bay Rays Need To Make a Move
The line on David Price’s return from the disabled list Tuesday night was encouraging – no runs on three hits in seven innings – as the Tampa Bay Rays cruised to an 8-0 blanking of the home team Houston Astros. Price could hardly have done better, throwing only 70 pitches, 48 for strikes, with 10 K’s and no walks.
Yet while a win may be a win, the Astros are not the team to test the recovering Cy Young awardee, back from a triceps injury that sidelined him for 44 games. Clearly a team in rebuilding mode, Houston has been outscored by 124 runs over their first 84 games, the worst in baseball. (The second worse team, the Miami Marlins, are not even close with their -87 run differential.) Not surprisingly, Houston also owns the worst record in the American League.
Having dominated the Astros 20-0 in the first two games of their series, the Rays may be quite anxious to see more of them. They will get that chance with five more games, two left in Houston and a three-game series at Tropicana just before the All-Star break. In fact, during the run-up to the break, Tampa will face three of the four teams with the worst records in the AL, hosting the Chicago White Sox (34-47) for three games and the Minnesota Twins (36-44) for a four game set.
Now with their ace back on the mound and their highly touted prospect Wil Myers called up to the show, the Rays are as close to full strength as they have been in a long time. Though slowed a bit by painful bouts of plantar fasciitis, Evan Longoria has managed to avoid the DL and is contributing with an occasional stint at designated hitter. It is as good an opportunity as any for the Rays to begin to make a move from their perch 5 ½ games back of the Boston Red Sox.
Before he hit the DL, Price was struggling, with a 5.24 ERA and a 1.44 WHIP through nine games. Even though manager Joe Maddon might continue to tinker with the rotation with Alex Cobb still recovering from a concussion, it still looks like Price will take the ball two more times against relatively weak competition. If he pitches as he did Tuesday night, these starts could give both Price and the team some confidence and momentum before the Rays embark on a post-All-Star road trip to meet the Toronto Blue Jays, the Red Sox and New York Yankees in the cutthroat competitive AL East.