Detroit — David Price feels a hot streak coming on.
He has struck out 21 batters in his last two starts, and even though he gave up three runs and was bounced in the seventh on Thursday, he felt like something clicked.
"That's the best I've felt on the mound, regardless of the results," he said. "I don't care about the strikeouts. I don't care about the runs there in the seventh inning. That's best I've felt, that's the best I've thrown the baseball this year.
"I know good things are going to come."
He said he was pleased with some adjustments he'd made during the week. But when asked to specify what those adjustments were, he declined.
"I don't want to scare people," he said with a smile.
Trying to assess how well Price has pitched through his first nine starts is a tricky bit of business, partly because he has established Cy Young-level standards, partly because being the ace of the staff carries weightier responsibilities and partly because it's only been nine starts.
Asked to assess himself, and told that the Tigers were 8-1 in his starts, he said, "Stop right there. That's all that matters. The team is 8-1 in my starts. Let's keep it going. If I am 3-1 but the team is 32-1 in my starts, if you ask me, that's pretty dang-gone good."
It is. A starting pitcher's primary job is to give his team a chance to win. And there are other numbers that suggest that Price is off to a solid start. His ERA is 3.32 despite a horrendous outing against the Yankees in April.
His strikeouts are off his usual pace (54 in 59.2 innings), but his 12 strikeout effort against the Astros, backing his nine punch-outs against the Cardinals, suggests he's getting back on track in that department.
There are other signs, though, that suggest this hasn't been the smoothest ride for him.
* He's only gotten through the seventh inning in three of the nine starts. This is a guy who threw 246 innings last season and prides himself on going deep into games every fifth day.
* He's been uncharacteristically susceptible to big innings: a three-run fourth by the Indians, a six-run first by the Yankees, A four-run fourth by the Royals and the three-run seventh by the Astros Wednesday.
* His WHIP is 1.207, which would be the highest for him since 2009.
* His FIP (fielding independent pitching, which calculates home runs, walks and hit batsmen against strikeouts) is 3.33, highest since 2010.
* Left-handed batters are hitting .292 against him. Over his career, lefties have hit .214 against him.
He has made three starts since he threw a complete game at Kansas City. He's had three straight no-decisions with a 4.12 ERA. Opposing hitters are hitting .298 with a .512 slugging percentage and .834 OPS in those starts.
In the starts immediately following his last three complete games going back to last season, Price has allowed 19 runs and 33 hits in 19.1 innings.
The sample size is small, certainly, and none of this is worrisomely bad — it's just not typical of Price. Or, is it?
"I've never been one that starts particularly well," he said. "But where I'm at right now, the way I feel body-wise, arm-wise, health-wise and just on the mound in general, I am where I have been when I am going really good.
"I feel like I am better off right now that where I've been in previous years to this point."
He fully admits that he hasn't hit his stride just yet.
"To me, that's the best thing about it," he said. "I am where I am right now and I haven't thrown the ball as well as I am capable of throwing — not just every fifth day but in stringing it together, having that month and a half to two months where everything is going your way on the mound and you are in complete control of every pitch.
"When that times comes, that's when it's fun."
That time, he fully believes, is coming. Soon.
Don't be against it.
In the months of June and July over his career he is 33-18, with a 3.05 ERA, with 398 strikeouts in 398.1 innings.
Chris McCosky on Twitter @cmccosky