Published: July 4, 2013   |
Updated: July 4, 2013 at 02:19 PM
Who isn't looking at the Rays a little differently this morning?
A few days ago, they were mucking about.
Then David Price, fresh from his first stay on the disabled list, climbed the mound in Houston.
The season's pulse is getting stronger by the minute.
The reigning Cy Young winner missed 44 games with that left triceps strain, but he'd really missed all of this season, at least the Price who inspired last season with 20 wins.
Then he showed up Tuesday. And how.
Houston, they had a problem. Price threw seven scoreless innings, pure dynamite, the fastball up a few ticks on the radar gun, both sides of the zone.
The Astros managed three singles off him. Price struck out 10, eight looking. He needed only 70 pitches for seven innings. He never went to a three-ball count. It was dominance, the best Tuesday outing this side of Homer Bailey.
It was the shot in the arm Rays arms needed.
This was the Price we hadn't seen since last season.
This was Price in control, none shall pass, in his words, "making sure the game starts and stops with me."
It's sweet music to the Rays and their fans.
The Rays are in the caramel center of their season - 14 games leading into the All-Star break, seven against the struggling Astros, three with the White Sox, four with the Twins, not a winning record in the bunch.
There has been enough moaning about how the Rays had the toughest schedule in the American League until this point. Too much chirping about it, in fact, especially from the manager.
So, this is the time to do some damage, beat who you're supposed to beat - with impunity. They beat the Astros 20-0 across the first two games.
Who would have believed, before the season, that starting pitching would be the under-performing Rays component?
A drop-off with the loss of James Shields, yes, but not Price's death drop - a single, solitary win in his first nine starts before the DL, an ERA over 5.00.
That the Rays were above .500 despite all of that, in third place in the AL East, bodes well if this Price stays the way he was Tuesday.
Jeremy Hellickson has won his past three starts.
After hitting a snag after that 8-0 start, Matt Moore has regained his form.
Beyond that is the great unknown - Alex Cobb, young replacements, and the always suspect Roberto Hernandez.
But Price back at the helm, being the living, breathing No. 1, that's the thing.
His teammates responded Tuesday.
Yunel Escobar made a spectacular play deep in the hole, just west of You've Got To Be Kidding. Desmond Jennings drove in four runs, including two on a long home run. Jose Molina scored all the way from third on the play.
The Fun was back in David Price games.
Cy replaced Sigh.
The Rays need this kind of music, like Price after Tuesday's game.
"That's probably the best I've felt on a baseball field maybe in my entire life," he said.
"The fastball was there with good life at the end," manager Joe Maddon said.
Will there be good life at the end of this season?