David Price is Tigers' last hope, again
Detroit — Tigers outfielder Torii Hunter was almost apologetic.
"David Price, man, I am pretty sure he's going to give us every opportunity to get the win tomorrow," he said. "When we've really needed him, he's stepped up and pitched his butt off. The pressure is on him again. I hate to put that much pressure on him all the time, but it seems like he thrives on situations like this."
The Tigers, down 0-2 and facing elimination by the Orioles in the best-of-five American League Division Series, will put the ball in Price's hands just like they did last Sunday when the AL Central Division title was on the line.
"You have to have your confidence pretty high when you have David Price on the mound," designated hitter Victor Martinez said. "He's a proven pitcher. It's no secret. He's one of the best in the game. If we don't have confidence in him, we're really in bad shape."
Martinez had a big smile on his face throughout a four-minute press session before the Tigers' off-day workout Saturday at Comerica Park. Did the smile connote confidence?
"I really believe in the talent we have in this room," he said. "We're here for a reason. They are here for a reason. At this point, you are playing the best against the best. Just make sure we keep our heads up and keep playing the game hard."
Price has closed out three of the last four regular seasons by pitching do-or-die games — he started Game 162 for the Rays against the Yankees in 2011, he won Game 163 for the Rays in 2013 and he beat the Twins last Sunday to clinch the Tigers' fourth straight division crown.
The stage isn't likely to be too big for him Sunday.
"It's still a game," Price said. "This is a game I dreamed of when I was a kid. I am not going to go out there and apply extra pressure to myself. Because if I do that, I can go out there and pitch well and still not have any fun.
"I want to go out there and have fun, live in the moment, relish it and just throw my game."
The gravity of the situation is not lost on him, though.
"This is the time to step up," he said. "It's not easier when you are down 0-2 as opposed to being up 2-0. But you know what you have to do. This is the time you want to step up for your team, your fan base and for the city of Detroit.
"This is a special moment. And I want to go out there and throw my game. That's what I plan on doing."
Price, having pitched in the AL East the last seven seasons before being acquired by the Tigers in August, is all too familiar with the Orioles' offense. In 17 career starts against them, Price is 7-3 with a 2.82 earned-run average and 100 strikeouts in 108.1 innings.
However, things haven't gone so well in his last five starts against them — 1-1 (Orioles won three of the five games), 4.67 ERA, 43 hits in 27 innings.
"Whenever you are pitching against a team you've pitched against a lot, you are familiar with them and they are familiar with you," Price said. "You just have to go front to back, back to front —continue to switch it up. It's a game within a game when you are on the mound, and you have to be able to keep them on their toes and keep them guessing."
Price, who will be pitching with an extra day's rest, said he wasn't taking the Tigers' recent bullpen woes with him into this start. He said he still has full confidence in the entire pitching staff.
That said, Price's goal in every start is to finish.
"It takes all 25 guys to win," he said. "This has been a very long season. Every organization is going to have ups and downs, but you have to be able to move forward. That's what we plan on doing.
"I would love to go out there and give everybody in the bullpen a day off and get 27 outs. But that's not always the case."
Down 0-2, there is no margin for error. But, as Hunter said, there is also no time to quit.
"Competitors don't think 'last game,'" Hunter said. "They don't do that. I don't even understand that thinking. As long as we got breath in our body, we still got a chance to win. We still have an opportunity. We can't just roll over and die.
"We're just focused on winning (Game 3). That's all we can do. Our backs are against the wall so you've got to come out scratching, clawing, biting — do a little bit of everything — because you can't back up no farther."