ALCS Notebook

Decision to Use Price Pays Off for Maddon, Rays

By Dave Sheinin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 20, 2008

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla., Oct. 19 -- When Tampa Bay Rays Manager Joe Maddon and pitching coach Jim Hickey met before Game 7 of the American League Championship Series, they decided it might be the perfect opportunity to unleash their secret weapon, rookie left-hander David Price.

"We decided then and there, with some pretty good conviction, too -- '[Heck] yeah, we'd go to him,' " Hickey said.

As it turned out, the chosen spot for Price, who had made all of seven big league appearances to that point and only six relief appearances in his life, was the top of the eighth, with the bases loaded, two outs, J.D. Drew at the plate and the Rays protecting a 3-1 lead.

"He hadn't been here all year," third baseman Evan Longoria said of Price, who was called to the majors in mid-September. "But I loved the decision. Baptism by fire. His stuff is as good as anyone in that bullpen."

Four pitches later, Drew was retired, the victim of a 97-mph fastball. He attempted to check his swing, but home plate umpire Brian Gorman ruled he had gone around.

"I don't feel I went around," Drew said. "I felt the at-bat was kind of taken away from me."

That one-batter performance, plus the fact Maddon had burned through most of his bullpen in the inning, helped persuade the Rays to send Price -- whom Maddon called his "this kind of ace in your back pocket" -- back for the ninth. Price finished off the Red Sox, working around a leadoff walk to Jason Bay, earning his first big league save.

"That's a memory that will last a lifetime," Price said.

Zimmer Pitches In

A phone call from the team owner on the afternoon of Game 7 is typically not a welcome thing. But when Don Zimmer, the Rays' senior adviser, answered the phone around 2 p.m. Sunday, this is what owner Stuart Sternberg told him:

"I'd like for you to do me a favor."

"I was stunned," Zimmer said. "What could I do for Stuart Sternberg?"

Sternberg wanted Zimmer to throw out the ceremonial first pitch before Game 7.

"He said, 'I know you're going to say no,' " Zimmer said. "'But I want you to do this.' I said, 'If that's what you want me to do, I'll try it.' "

Zimmer, who typically wears a Rays pullover instead of a uniform, wore jersey number 60 to the mound, in honor of the 60 years he has spent in professional baseball, including seven as a coach and manager of the Red Sox.

Replacement Ump in Right

Derryl Cousins, the umpire who left Game 6 following the third inning after being struck in the chest by a tipped ball while working behind the plate, was expected to recover from a bruised collarbone. But he did not return for Game 7, and was replaced by Angel Hernandez, who worked the right field line. . . .

In the repeat of the pitching matchup from Game 3, the Rays used the same lineup against Jon Lester as they did in Game 3, with Rocco Baldelli replacing Gabe Gross in right field and Willy Aybar at designated hitter. The Red Sox replicated their Game 3 lineup, as well, with the exception of Coco Crisp instead of Jacoby Ellsbury in center field and leadoff.

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