Rays’ David Price eyes breakthrough against Rangers in ALDS

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ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — David Price is thankful to have another shot at Texas in the playoffs.

A postseason disappointment a year ago when he lost twice in the opening round to the only AL opponent he’s never beaten, the young Tampa Bay pitcher will get a chance to redeem himself Monday when he goes against right-hander Colby Lewis in Game 3 of the AL division series between the Rays and Rangers.

The teams are tied 1-1 after splitting two games in Texas. The Rays say they’re comfortable putting the ball in Price’s hand, even though the hard-throwing lefty hasn’t won in more than a month and was 0-2 with a 4.97 ERA in a pair of losses at home to Cliff Lee in the 2010 ALDS.

“It’s pretty unique … a good opportunity for me to have,” Price said Sunday, conceding that his lack of success against the AL West champions is not easy to shove to the back of his mind.

The 25-year-old is 0-3 with a 5.67 ERA in six career regular season starts against Texas, including a 3-0 loss to Lewis and the Rangers at Tropicana Field on June 1.

“It is something that I think about and something that I want to get over with,” Price said. “I am not intimidated by this lineup by any means or anything like that. It is a very good offensive lineup, and they make it tough to pitch. But it’s postseason baseball, and you have to be able to step up and make some pitches for your team.”

The No. 1 pick in the 2007 amateur draft made an impressive postseason debut as rookie in 2008, making five relief appearances following a September call-up to play a key role in Tampa Bay’s surprising run to the World Series.

Price won 19 games last season, finishing second in AL Cy Young Award balloting behind Felix Hernandez, but hasn’t been nearly as consistent since being roughed up in last year’s playoffs.

He went 12-13 this season and was 0-2 over six September starts for his first winless month in three years as a starter.

“That’s unacceptable,” said Price, who will be starting an important game for the second time in less than a week.

The two-time All-Star committed two costly throwing errors and allowed six runs in four innings to New York last Wednesday night, when the Rays entered their regular season finale tied with Boston for the wild card. The Rays overcame the subpar performance when they rallied from a late seven-run deficit to beat the Yankees and clinch their third playoff berth in four years.

Teammates have faith that Price will rebound against the Rangers.

David’s the kind of guy that, I think, no matter what kind of knockout blow he takes, he’s always going to get up and keep going, try to find something from that experience to make him better, something to take away that he can turn into a positive,” Rays third baseman Evan Longoria said.

“He took those two (playoff losses last season) and everything that happened to him this year and learned from it,” Longoria added. “I’m looking forward to watching him pitch. I have no doubts about putting him out there against anybody in any situation. I would not put anybody else out there. He just has the desire to win.”

Rangers manager Ron Washington selected Price for the AL All-Star team this summer, even though the young pitcher has not had much success against Texas.

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