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Rays

Price, Rays get shelled by Rockies

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Published:   |   Updated: May 5, 2013 at 08:05 AM
DENVER -

 Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon was hoping Friday's gritty, extra-inning win against the Colorado Rockies the began the final leg of a long road trip would be just what his team needed to break out of their season-long funk.

"I would like to believe so," Maddon said before Saturday's game. "When you win a game like that on the road in extra innings coming from behind, come on. It has all the ingredients to do something for your psyche. I want to believe that. But the proof is in the day."

The day belonged to David Price, the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner, and he didn't have a good one.

Again.

It was Rockies 9, Rays 3.

Price let a lead slip away in the third inning and then the game itself in the seventh when he allowed the Rockies to score five times with two outs, the last four coming on a grand slam on his final pitch of the night.

"I just got to make better pitches, especially in those big spots, and that's not what I'm doing," Price said. "It's frustrating, it is."

Price allowed 10 hits and nine runs, all of which were earned after the official scorer changed an error on Ben Zobrist in that fateful seventh inning to an infield hit for Michael Cuddyer.

After Price walked Wilin Rosario, the next batter, to load the bases, Nolan Arernado followed with his first career grand slam, which ended Price's night and put the game out of reach.

Price is 1-3 with a 6.25 ERA. He hardly looks like the 20-game winner who led the American League with a 2.56 during his award-winning 2012 season.

What's more, the Rays have lost six of his seven starts.

His fastball velocity still isn't where it was last season, when it averaged 95.5 mph - the fastest among all qualifying major-league pitchers. Maddon thinks that might be what's diminishing the effectiveness of his off-speed pitches.

But Price is also struggling to hold leads, and Saturday was the 11th time the Rays lost a game in which they led.

"It's very frustrating," Price said. "When you get the lead you obviously want to hold on to it so your team can win, and when you're not doing that it's rough, it is. I got to get better."

The nine runs were the most Price allowed in a game since he allowed 10 to the Philadelphia Phillies in June 2009. Five of those runs that night were unearned.

Price has allowed eight hits in three of his last four starts. On Saturday he failed to complete the seventh inning for the fifth time this season.

"Nothing was comfortable," Maddon said of the way Price looked on the mound.

Maddon said some of that could be attributed to the mile high altitude of Denver. In addition to helping balls travel farther in the air, it also causes dryness, and that can prevent a visiting pitcher from getting his proper grip on the ball.

Price said that didn't help.

"It was rough," he said. "I felt like (the baseballs) were extremely slick. You try and lick your fingers and rub the ball up but it doesn't do a whole lot. It was tough. It was a little bit different."

Maddon said Price is healthy. Price said he's healthy.

So why the poor start to the year?

"I don't have a good answer for that," Maddon said.

The loss ended a frustrating week for Price that began with his first victory of the season and included a much-publicized dispute with umpire Tom Hallion that resulted Price, Hallion and Rays pitchers Jeremy Hellickson and Matt Moore receiving fines for their comments and tweets.

Price said before Friday's game that he couldn't wait until he got back on the mound so he could put the events of the week behind him and get back to playing baseball.

But Price couldn't hold on to a 3-1 lead in the third inning. He allowed the Rockies to tie the score in the bottom of the inning after the Rays went ahead in the top of the frame on an RBI double by James Loney and a two-run single by Kelly Johnson.

The Rockies took a 4-3 lead in the fifth inning when a leadoff home run by Carlos Gonzalez.

Price managed to keep the Rays in the game. He faced the top of the Rockies order in the seventh inning and quickly got the first two outs on a grounder to Zobrist, who had moved to shortstop when Yunel Escobar left the game after being hit on the left hand with a pitch (X-Rays were negative), and a strikeout.

Gonzalez kept the inning alive with a two-out single. Troy Tulowitzki, who drove in the Rockies' first three runs on an RBI single and a two-run double, reached when Evan Longoria couldn't handle his ground ball. Cuddyer followed with a grounder to short that was later ruled an infield single.

Rosario drew a walk to load the bases, and Arenado cleared them with his home run.

Price was still on the mound because his pitch count was not bad - the grand slam came on his 104th of the night - and because Maddon still feels Price is his best option on the mound.

"Prior to the grand slam it was not like he was getting beat up," Maddon said.

As for the momentum gained from Friday's win? Gone.

"It's a carry over from the conclusion of spring training," Maddon said. "Everything is a little off."

Price included.
 
rmooney@tampatrib.com
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 Twitter: @RMooneyTBO

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