“I don’t have very many numeric or statistical expectations of him,” Detroit Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said of David Price prior to his debut for the team Tuesday afternoon at Yankee Stadium. “He’s a very good pitcher. I expect him to go out and pitch the way he pitches. That being said, who knows what will happen. But the trend for him is, if throws ten games, there’s gonna be nine good ones. So hopefully, this is one of the nine.”
As the evening got started for Price, it didn’t look like this was one of his nine good ones. But ultimately, if it wasn’t vintage Price, it qualified as the kind of pitching most would be thrilled to call their own. He entered the night with a 3.11 ERA, 23 walks, and 189 strikeouts. And he didn’t walk anybody, struck out 10 over 8 2/3 innings. So the overall outing, statistically, was David Price in microcosm.
But early on, so the home run problem he’d battled for much of the season — entering the night with a league-high 20 allowed — cropped up again, with long balls to Brian McCann and Martin Prado.
Price came out throwing five fastballs before his first changeup in the first, impressing his catcher, Alex Avila. And it seemed he had his full complement of weapons working, especially when he utilized the two-seamer, four-seamer, knuckle curve, change and cutter all in the service of a single, 10-pitch strikeout of Prado, hitting eighth Tuesday for the Yankees.
“I threw him everything I had, yeah,” Price said, wearing a “Keep Calm and Chive On” green t-shirt as he faced reporters by his locker. “I was happy to be able to end that at-bat with an out. He’s a good hitter. He’s definitely not an eight-hole guy, that’s for sure.”
But the fastball command came and went throughout the night. A 96 mile-per-hour offering on the outer half of the plate was drilled by Jacoby Ellsbury for an RBI double. Prado got another fastball up, and seconds later had his first Yankees home run. McCann did the same.
After the game, I asked him whether he’d fixed something mechanically with that fastball, or merely altered how he spotted it.
“I’m constantly trying to switch things up,” Price said. “I thought Alex did, from finishing guys off one way, I want to just keep doing things differently. I don’t want to five them the same look, every at-bat, and that’s what we were doing.”
Price soldiered on, changing sequences, keeping the Yankees off the board, and allowing the Tigers to tie it up in the top of the seventh. He navigated some trouble with better location of that fastball, including an excellent 93 mile-per-hour offering to Brendan Ryan that completely tied him up and ended the threat. His 100th pitch, an 82 mile-per-hour knuckle curve, sounded like it cracked Ellsbury’s bat on a lazy pop-up. Two pitches later, Mark Teixeira harmlessly bounced back to Price to end the eighth.
And on he battled, into the ninth, somehow stretching only a bit beyond 100 pitches despite the early missteps. He finished at 112 pitches, his final pitch a swinging strike three from Chase Headley, that 94 mile-per-hour fastball now his friend again. The Tigers won in 12.
Price just seemed relieved that his first start was behind him.
“I feel a lot better about everything right now,” Price said. “Helping these guys win a game, it feels good.”
His manager seemed pretty happy, if matter-of-fact, when it was over.
“I mean, he did exactly what everyone was hoping he’d do,” Ausmus said. “He pitched deep into the game, into the ninth inning, allowed only three runs against a team that’s seen him quite a bit, and gave us a chance to win.”