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July 25, 2013

What You Need to Know

Price Wrong for the Red Sox

by Andrew Koo, Chris Mosch and Satchel Price


The Wednesday Takeaway
Before the Rays' series against the Red Sox, David Price said, “I want to go nine every fifth day.” Taking the ball in the third game, he did exactly that, disposing of baseball’s best offense with just 97 pitches.

Price completed the first four innings with 35 pitches and needed only 10 to close out the game’s final frame, throwing strikes from the beginning of the contest through the end. All four of his pitches proved effective, with his sinker averaging nearly 95 mph, a mark he’s been hitting consistently since returning from a six-week stint on the disabled list to nurse a triceps injury. Boston’s only run came on a Mike Napoli homer in the seventh.

Price has been striking out hitters at a 20 percent rate this season after hovering around 24 percent the past two years. In July, he’s struck out hitters at an 18 percent rate—a 5.9 K/9. Last night, he struck out just four and induced 12 ground balls.That greatly helped his pitch efficiency, and he has not exceeded 100 pitches since his return, a five-start stretch that includes three complete games. He has averaged 11 pitches per inning over that span.

The Rays’ trademark stellar defense was present once again, converting all but two grounders into outs. With the leadoff runner on in the fourth, the new $110 million man Dustin Pedroia hit a ball up the middle, gloved by a running Yunel Escobar. He barely took another step before shuffling the ball behind his back to Ben Zobrist, who barehanded it for the force out and zoomed it to first for the double play.

Despite his team's month-long tear, Joe Maddon continued to tinker and search for every advantage, moving Evan Longoria into the second spot of his order and streaking rookie Wil Myers into the cleanup position. Myers delivered a two-run single that scored Longoria and Desmond Jennings in the third. Maddon’s lineup spots tend to be an experimental revolving door, as he considered batting Longoria leadoff, too. Nevertheless, his best hitters always bat at or near the top. It was Longoria’s first career start in the two-hole.

The win moved Tampa to within half a game of Boston for the AL East lead. After a Jeremy Hellickson-versus-John Lackey tilt tomorrow, they won’t meet again until September, when they—along with the Orioles—will presumably still be duking it out for the division crown. —Andrew Koo

Wednesday’s Matchup in Review
Austin Jackson found his power stroke against White Sox starter John Danks, hitting his first home run since the Fourth of July as part of a 6-2 victory. The Tigers outfielder capitalized on the favorable matchup to finish the night with two hits, including the second-inning solo shot, to continue his career-long success against the veteran left-hander.

For Danks, it was a battle against untimely mistakes and sour luck. Though he displayed characteristically superb command, Detroit hitters took advantage of hittable pitches over the plate to light Danks up to the tune of 11 hits and six runs over seven innings.

Jackson was among those to hammer Danks, using his patented aggressive approach. He turned Danks’ willingness to throw the ball over the plate against the southpaw, hitting a single on the second pitch he saw in the first inning, then following it up with a first-pitch homer in the following frame. Danks rebounded by forcing him into 0-2 counts, and subsequent outs, in his next two at-bats, but it was a nice showing by Jackson.

However, the most impressive aspect of Wednesday’s game may have been what Jackson managed not to do. By avoiding a strikeout in his five plate appearances, he recorded his first zero-strikeout effort since June 27 against the Angels. That snapped a 22-game strikeout streak, and meanwhile, Jackson continued his success against Danks. He’s now 12-for-30 with three homers against the lefty. —Satchel Price

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