Verlander, Price star in own dubious 3,000-hit club
NEW YORK -- Nearly four years ago, David Price was pitching for the Rays at Yankee Stadium when Derek Jeter became only the second player in history to crack a homer for his 3,000th hit.
It was an amazing coincidence of time and place that the left-hander was in the house with the Tigers on Friday night when teammate Justin Verlander did the same thing during the first inning: giving up a homer to Alex Rodriguez for his 3,000th hit in the Tigers' 7-2 loss to the Yankees.
Verlander and Price are former American League Cy Young Award winners who've combined to win 244 games in their career. Price said it never bothered him that he gave up the big hit in a big way to Jeter and Verlander should have no trouble with it, either.
"It stunk to give up a homer," said Price, recalling the game on July 9, 2011, when Jeter homered in the third inning, his second of five hits on the day. "It'd have been great if he'd had his little patented single to right field, inside-out. That's what I was really hoping for. I could've hit the pitch I threw, it was awful. No, I don't have any regrets. I'm happy to be a part of it.
"There's nobody that I grew up watching or I've played against that I'd rather give up a 3,000th hit to, maybe [Miguel Cabrera]. I didn't have a problem with it."
Verlander had more problems on Friday night than allowing the homer on the first pitch he tossed to A-Rod with two out and nobody on in the opening inning. Later on, Didi Gregorius also hit a solo homer and Brett Gardner added a two-run shot.
The right-hander missed most of Spring Training and the first 10 weeks of the season because of a strain in his right triceps, which he said on Friday night is now feeling perfect. It was only his second start since coming off the disabled list on June 13 and fourth overall, including a pair of Minor League rehab outings.
Despite throwing at normal velocity in the mid-90s and building up his pitch count to 117 when he was pulled out with two down in the seventh inning having allowed 10 hits and six earned runs, Verlander said his slider was pretty much missing in action and that he felt a tad rusty.
"I would say rust is a really good word to use," Verlander said. "I just can't quite execute in some situations. Gregorius and Gardner were great examples of that. Gregorius I tried to throw a fastball down away and he yanked it middle in. That was the home run he hit. And Gardner, I hung a curveball. A-Rod, I didn't miss by much. He's just a real good hitter.
"I need to execute a little bit better than that and that comes with just pitching. This is my fourth start overall and my second start in the big leagues in eight months. I'm still just trying to find it a little bit."
The right-handed hitting A-Rod wasted little time with Verlander in the first inning, driving a fastball that he tried to place just off the right corner of the plate, going to the opposite field with it.
"I wasn't sure if he was going to be swinging early or not, but in retrospect I think he was just trying to get 3,000 out of the way," Verlander said. "That's a pitch that historically I know he likes. It was outside. It was on the black, but just a hair up. He knows that in this ballpark if you just get the barrel of the bat on it, it goes."
Situated in the third-base dugout Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said that he took a pretty good look at it and thought it was gone the minute A-Rod hit it. Verlander wasn't so sure. It seemed to carry and carry as J.D. Martinez drifted back to the fence by the auxiliary scoreboard and watched it land just a few rows in.
"I mean, I thought it was questionable, but then I remembered where we were and I knew it was gone," Verlander said. "Off the bat I [wondered about it] and then I knew there was no chance."
The latest edition of Yankee Stadium hasn't been very friendly to Verlander since it opened in 2009. He's 0-4 here with a 4.90 ERA in seven starts. In his career against Verlander, Rodriguez is 11-for-32 (.344) with five homers. Jeter, who retired last year, was 17-for-47 (.362).
Price also has had tough times against both players, recalling that in the first inning of the first start of his career, coming for the Rays at the old Yankee Stadium on Sept. 14, 2008, Jeter and Rodriguez had hits against him. Actually, Jeter had a bunt single as the first three Yankees loaded the bases and A-Rod cleared them with a grand slam. It was quite an auspicious start and the first of the 11 hits Rodriguez has had against Price.
"So without me, he'd still be 12 hits away [from 3,000]," Price joked before the game.
Verlander acknowledged that there had been some chatter beforehand between the two pitchers about Price giving up the Jeter homer.
"We have differing views on it," Verlander said. "I don't want to ever give up a hit. I definitely don't want to be part of history that way."
Now Verlander and Price are linked together in dubious history. After Verlander walked off the mound in the first inning, the A-Rod homer and hit No. 3,000 in the books, Verlander sought out Price.
"We just kind of messed with each other a little bit," Verlander said. "But when I came into the dugout I said, 'Man, now I know how you feel.'"