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Price experiences rare off night against Red Sox

Ace gives up nine hits, including a pair of homers to Ortiz

BOSTON -- Manager Joe Maddon thought that David Price had good stuff on Saturday night. But Boston's hitters said he didn't have his best fastball, and wondered if his emotional complete-game win over Texas in Game 163 had taken something out of him.

Price's thoughts settled somewhere in between after the Red Sox got to him to the tune of seven runs on nine hits over seven-plus innings, a rare off night for him against Boston. He felt as though he executed most of his pitches, that he was hurt by tough breaks and a few well-hit balls.

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Whatever the case may have been, he wasn't happy that he couldn't help the Rays even the American League Division Series as they fell behind the Red Sox, 0-2, with their 7-4 loss at Fenway Park.

"Absolutely, I'm disappointed. I don't know what my stat line was, but I know I gave up quite a few earned runs," Price said. "It stinks, especially in the postseason, when you want to go out there and pitch your best. You're as good as your last game, and tonight I wasn't very good. Honestly, I thought I was pretty good tonight, but that team just beat me. That's a very good team, and I've said that for quite a while now."

Yet Price had been practically untouchable against the Red Sox until now, not allowing more than four runs in his 20 career games against them. But Boston was all over him from the outset in this one, particularly its left-handed hitters.

Price gave up six hits to Boston's lefties, including three to Jacoby Ellsbury and two homers to David Ortiz, the most hits he's allowed against left-handed batters in his career.

"The one thing I noticed about him, his fastball wasn't the way it used to be. Of course, he pitched four or five days ago, a complete game. A complete game will catch up with you a little bit this late in the season," Ortiz said. "He wasn't 96, 98 like he used to be. It wasn't a bad fastball, but it wasn't the way you'd normally expect it. ... I still think he pitched a good game."

That was Maddon's main point as well, as he pointed out some of the "awkward stuff" the Red Sox took advantage of early. Take, for example, Boston's first run. Ellsbury hit a broken-bat single, stole second, took third when Jose Molina's throw sailed into center and scored on Dustin Pedroia's sacrifice fly. Just like that, Price was down, 1-0.

"That's kind of what it was. They had some broken-bat singles, some broken-bat doubles, some 305-foot fly balls go for doubles and triples. That's part of pitching in this park," Price said. "It's something that I've done extremely well, and tonight wasn't my night."

Ortiz launched his first homer immediately after Ellsbury scored, pushing the Rays into an early two-run hole. And Boston kept chipping away, taking advantage of the fact that Price threw as many strikes as he did -- 68 of his 102 pitches -- particularly when he left pitches up in the zone or over the plate.

"The reason why we see pitches is we look for strikes. David Price throws a lot of strikes. So when he was throwing strikes, we were swinging," Red Sox catcher David Ross said. "We didn't even have a hitters' meeting. These guys know their plan, and they know what they're good at."

Price dismissed the idea that his nine-inning effort in Texas on Monday drained him in any way, saying, "I'm still pumped up. We've been playing Game Sevens for the last week. I'm fine."

To his credit, Price went deep into the game, retiring seven straight batters heading into the eighth inning. But that was when his night came to an end, as Ortiz crushed another long homer down the line and into the right-field seats. That's when Maddon took the ball out of Price's hands while knowing that his hurler wanted nothing more than to keep pitching.

"He was upset. I know he did not want to come out of the game at that point," Maddon said.

Price also took issue with Ortiz watching the flight of that second homer, ostensibly to see if it was going fair or foul.

"He knows how I've pitched him the last year and a half, probably two years," Price said. "He steps in the bucket and he hits a homer, and he stares at it to see if it's fair or foul -- I'm sure that's what he'd say. But as soon as he hit it and I saw it, I knew it was fair. Run."

As for removing his starter, "I've got to look at the bigger picture there," Maddon said. "It's going to be hard to come back against [Red Sox closer Koji] Uehara, absolutely."

But there was more to it than that, Maddon said with his characteristically optimistic outlook. If the Rays overcome the odds, reel off two straight wins and force this ALDS to a Game 5 at Fenway Park on Thursday, Price is going to get the start.

As hard as it may have been to explain, Saturday night didn't go Price's way. But if the Rays make it back here, they'll have their ace on the mound.

"Game 5 is several days from now. I didn't want him to throw 115, 120 pitches in a loss and have that impact his next start," Maddon said. "I thought it was the right thing to do to -- save some bullets for next time."

Adam Berry is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @adamdberry.

Tampa Bay Rays, David Price