Has David Price returned to Cy Young form? It looks that way, although he's doing it in a way we're not so used to seeing from the hard-throwing southpaw.
After shutting out the Astros in seven outstanding innings in his first start of the DL, Price was just as impressive in start Sunday allowing just one run over nine very strong frames. Price didn't try to overpower Chicago's bats; he pitched to contact with excellent command and was extremely efficient doing so.
He threw 73% of his 98 pitches for strikes, striking out five without giving up a single walk (just one three-ball count). Price did allow eight hits, but all were singles except for Josh Phegley's solo home run (first of his career). Take a look at his strikezone plot:
Notice how Price worked the upper half of the zone well with precision, enticing plenty of weak contact rather than blowing batters away with heat. Price's fastball—which has seen reduced velocity in 2013—averaged at around 94 MPH this afternoon, which is a bit slower than what we saw from him in his last outing in Houston.
Price's complete game was the first by a Rays pitcher this season.
<blockquote class="twitter-tweet"><p>Great to have our ace close out the sweep!! First CG for the staff! Awesome</p>— Matt Moore (@MattyMoe55) <a href="https://twitter.com/MattyMoe55/statuses/353986795848998912">July 7, 2013</a></blockquote>
<script async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8"></script>
As for the Rays' offense, the bats didn't make much noise but the three runs would be enough. Joe Maddon decided not to implement "The Danks Theory" despite his team facing John Danks himself. The left-hander turned in a strong start, surrendering three runs over seven innings.
Like the Rays have managed to do in almost all of their games recently, they got runs on the board early in this ballgame. A leadoff double by Desmond Jennings set up a sacrifice fly by [All-Star] Ben Zobrist in the bottom of the first to hand Tampa a 1-0 lead.
Skipping to the fifth, Sean Rodriguez made it a 2-0 game with an RBI single in the midst of a two-out rally.
Then with a slender 2-1 lead in the seventh, a leadoff triple by Luke Scott would lead to a sac fly off the bat of Jose Molina. Scott collected two of the Rays' five hits.
Molina's performance in this game was also a notable one, as he threw out both of Chicago's would-be base stealers in addition to his key RBI.
With this win, Tampa Bay has now won four straight and has been victorious in eight of their last nine games. The Rays are now tied with Baltimore for second place in the AL East (five games behind) and for the second Wild Card spot.
The Rays are set to begin a four-game home series against the 37-48 Minnesota Twins tomorrow night.