Toronto has been known for having the best popcorn in North America, now they can be known for having one of the best lineups in baseball.
After eight years of competing against him, seven of them being in the same division, David Price donned his number 14 for the blue and white today, and did so in incredible fashion.
In front of a sold out crowd of 45,000 people at the Rogers Centre, the 29-year-old showed exactly why GM Alex Anthopoulos swapped a potential future ace, Daniel Norris, for him. Not only did the debut garner attention from baseball fans across the world, but young Blue Jays pitcher Marcus Stroman also caught the action while at Duke University.
OKC star Kevin Durant was there to watch the inauguration as well.
David Price was locked in before the first pitch was thrown, jogging out to the left field bullpen to warm up an hour before his scheduled start. Now, usually pitchers would make their way out at around 12:40pm for a one o’clock game, but this wasn’t any regular outing for the left-hander. He was now starting for a team hungry for a playoff spot, against the team they are trying to catch for the wild card. He was now the ace in Toronto, a place who hasn’t had one in six years, since Roy Halladay made his departure for Philadelphia.
Price would make use of his mid-90s fastball and backdoor cutter in the early part of the game, striking out five in the first three innings. His one blemish came in the second with a fastball left up in the zone to Torii Hunter, who blasted it into the seats for a solo job. In the fourth inning the ace lefty would find himself in more danger as Minnesota loaded the bases with none out. Trevor Plouffe hit a lead-off double while both Miguel Sano and Torii Hunter drew walks. The atmosphere at the Rogers Centre was calm for the first time since the crowd of 45,000 lined up for blocks to get into the stadium.
There is a reason why Price held on to a 7-0 record with an ERA of 3.86 in Toronto. “I just had to get the first guy and see what happens. I’m one pitch away if I can get him. Tulo made a great play, and being able to get Kurt (Suzuki), a guy who has really hit me well, was huge.” His game plan was executed to perfection. Eddie Rosario would pop up to shallow centre into the glove of Troy Tulowitzki, before number 14 would use his surging adrenaline rush to fan Aaron Hicks and Kurt Suzuki with 97 mph fastballs.
Price would go on to retire 15 straight Twins batters after issuing the back-to-back walks. Minnesota couldn’t muster a base runner after the threat in the fourth. Here’s a quick look at how Price’s game worked out and how he attacked Minnesota hitters.
Final line: 8 IP 3 H 1 ER 2 BB 11 K on 119 pitches.
Breakdown of pitch usage: Fastball 52% – Changeup 31% – Cutter 16% – Curveball 1%
Today was the fourth double digit strikeout outing of the season for David Price. It was the second time this year that a Blue Jays pitcher has done so. Marco Estrada reached the milestone on June 24th against the Tampa Bay Rays, striking out 10. Price also tied the franchise record for most strikeouts in a debut. Number 14 now sits at 149 Ks to 31 walks on the 2015 campaign, that’s one hell of a ratio at 4.81:1.
The Blue Jays won the first game of the series and their record sits at 55-52.
Toronto has set themselves up nicely for a break-out run. Acquiring Tulowitzki, Price, Ben Revere, Mark Lowe, and LaTroy Hawkins at the deadline breathes optimism into a clubhouse that already had the best offense in the world. The reinforcements have arrived just in time for the Blue Jays to take on the toughest part of their schedule, playing 10 of the next 13 games against teams tied or ahead of them in the standings. After taking three of four from the Kansas City Royals, the Blue Jays have three more cracks against Minnesota, the club that stands between them and the second wild card spot. The next six games are of high significance for Toronto, as they travel to New York to take on the first place Yankees after this set at home. The Oakland Athletics then come to town for a three game series before they meet the Yankees yet again, but this time at the Rogers Centre. The Blue Jays have put together a lineup that will punish mistakes, and have set the table for playoff baseball for the first time since 1993.
David Price said, after the game, “Wow, that was hands down the best atmosphere I’ve ever pitched in. I’ve pitched in playoff games at Fenway, in Baltimore, even in Tampa, but today, that takes the cake, that was crazy.” Toronto is now tied with Minnesota for the second slot in the wild card race.