For those who believe in the Gospels According to Bull Durham — and I so wish I could quote verbatim from the bawdy ‘I believe’ Crash Davis soliloquy here — the idea may have taken hold that ballplayers talk about nothing much, really, when they convene on the field for in-game parlays.
“Candlesticks always make a nice gift,” a coach advises during a mound summit, when the conversation corkscrews towards an upcoming wedding.
But David Price did have something relevant to say as he crossed paths with Kevin Pillar at the Rogers Centre Sunday afternoon, after the Toronto centre fielder had flied out sharply on a hard hit ball that ended the sixth inning.
“I told him, ‘That was a homer. That should have been a homer,’ ” Price smiled, revealing the goofy, toothy grin that was a trademark in the Blue Jays clubhouse after the trade deadline last summer.
“He asked me, ‘Where at?’
“I said, ‘Here, with no wind blowing in.’ I thought he hit it really well.’’ Pause. “I’m glad it was caught.’’
It was that kind of an afternoon for Price, who was not particularly dominating on the bump for Boston — more fortuitous that mythic — in the visitors’ extra-inning, interminable, often eye-glazing 5-3 close-out win of an otherwise ceded weekend series.
“This is a very tough lineup to navigate through, one through nine swings the bat extremely well,’’ said Price, claiming to have gained no insight into potential vulnerabilities in the order whilst he was a Jay. “I benefitted from good defensive plays, from hard-hit balls right at people. That’s kind of been (my) story against the Jays. To me, I haven’t thrown the ball as well as my record indicates against these guys.”
To wit: Has won his last eight decisions against Toronto, regardless of uniform.
“Just good things happen whenever I face them. I’ll take it.”
Price wasn’t the bogeyman many had anticipated, in his first start against Toronto since Dave Dombrowski drove a Brinks truck up to his house in the off-season and dropped off $217 million, record lucre for a pitcher. Which the Jays’ scrimpy, short-sheeting brain-trust would never have considered offering; in fact never made an offer at all to the free agent who’d provided Jays with a 9-1 record in his too-short sojourn hereabouts.
Yes, Price took the money and ran, to Toronto’s most detested rivals, putting the lie to his own words, spoken to a Boston radio station not long before the contract was inked: “The amount of hatred I get from this fan-base blows every other fan-base away . . . I want no part of that.”
Ha-ha, fooled ’ya.
There was not a shred of enmity directed from the sellout crowd Sunday. Bit of a rah-rah when he took the hill to start, lots more of a salute — quasi-standing ovation — when he departed the game 6.1 innings later, at that point clinging to a 3-2 lead. Price touched his finger tip to the bill of his cap in acknowledgment.
We really did like the guy.
“Standing ovation is always good. It’s not very common to get one when you’re away from home.”
Has that touch of home yet, does Toronto, as Price admitted he did a bit of socializing with ex-teammates over the weekend. These aren’t old-school days anymore, when no such fraternization would have been tolerated.
“I’m not against that. I didn’t socialize with them today. But I’ve stayed in contact with them. I talk to quite a few of those guys day in and day out. To me, that’s what makes baseball special, the relationships. I’m not always going to be a baseball player. My time is going to come to an end at some point. But it’s those friendships that you build throughout a career that last forever.’’
A whole lotta loving going on, beneath the surface, between the lines.
“We’re both competitive but at the same time, at the end of the day, it’s just baseball,’’ philosophized Pillar, who Sunday went 0-for-5, 0-3 versus Price. “Our friendship will last beyond what goes on in the field. He’s one of the best in the world.’’
Marcus Stroman, of course, is another Price disciple.
R.A. Dickey is nobody’s disciple, except maybe the tiny conclave of knuckleballers who preceded him. One of those men of yore, Phil Niekro, was the last from the dipsy-doodle fraternity who recorded a no-hitter, back in 1973, was top of mind along press box row as Dickey carried his own no-hit bid into the sixth inning.
In fact, though neither factored into the decision when it was all said in done, Dickey arguably out-pitched Price as they went head-to-head until Dickey was lifted in the sixth.
Cy Young winner versus Cy Young winner. And Price, unexpectedly, the first to throw a wild pitch, though wildness, erratic ball movement, would catch up with Dickey in time.
It suddenly went pear-shaped for him in the sixth: triple through the gap that split the outfielders, RBI single on a 3-2 battle royale that was won by Dustin Pedroia (knuckleball left on the inner part of the plate), followed by a third straight hit to Xander Bogaerts — extending his hitting streak to 22 games on Dickey’s 11th pitch of the at-bat — the Bosox wearing him down by then, walk and a walk to load the bases, then Hanley Ramirez hit by a pitch, Toronto’s 2-0 lead erased. Chad Girodo offered no competent relief — few do for Toronto, out of the ’pen — walking in the go-ahead run after having Jackie Bradley Jr. apparently pinned on a 0-2 count.
“A couple singles, a walk’’ — left out that triple in the re-counting — “and next thing you know two, three runs, and against David Price,” Dickey sighed.
Didn’t get much run-support, which is par for the Dickey course, though he claims not to be feeling snake-bit by the AWOL offence on his watch.
“I’ve played long enough to understand there’s a rhythm to these things. There’ll be a stretch where I get a bunch. My job is to keep runs off the board so we have a chance to win. Today I pitched just well enough that we had a shot. I wouldn’t consider it a great outing but I wouldn’t consider it a bad outing either.”
The bad came later — in among the half-dozen Toronto relievers who followed Dickey on the hill, compared to four in support of Price, including Clay Buchholz, making his first relief appearance since the Bush Administration (George Dubbya).
It was Heath Hembree — sounds like a made-up name to me — who surrendered a solo shot eighth inning home run to Edwin Encarnacion. He belted it using a pink bat, in honour of Mother’s Day — Dia de la Madre — back in the Dominican. The dinger was a gift for mummy. “She asked me for that.’’
The other gifts of merit were two walks and a hit batter courtesy of Gavin Floyd in the 11th, a couple of runs on the board by the time that mess of a frame was over, Drew Storen adding to the damage.
Back-to-back relief appearances from Floyd, who looked utterly out of gas.
“Just didn’t have it today. Kind of a tough outing. Was unable to attack like I normally do. Just a tough one, you know?”
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