David Price's start to the season hasn't been at all what most expected after he won last year's AL Cy Young Award.
Perhaps facing the New York Yankees - who have struggled against left-handers - can help him turn things around as the Tampa Bay Rays seek a fifth straight victory Tuesday night.
The Rays (9-10) opened the three-game series at Tropicana Field with a 5-1 win Monday night as starter Matt Moore was dominant, allowing one run on two hits over eight innings. Meanwhile, they roughed up CC Sabathia for five runs on seven hits, including three home runs, while seizing their 12th home victory over the Yankees in 14 tries.
Price (0-1, 6.26 ERA) didn't go longer than six innings in any of his four starts. His early struggles come after a season in which he went 20-5 with a 2.56 ERA.
He threw six innings at Baltimore on Thursday, surrendering five runs on eight hits.
"It's a frustrating time for myself and this team right now," Price said. "I play this game to win, and most importantly, I want our team to win every fifth day when it's my time to pitch. I'm not helping the team right now so I'll have to make some adjustments and find what works."
Price fared well in his final three outings against the Yankees last season, going 2-0 with a 1.89 ERA and 22 strikeouts in 19 innings.
New York's struggles against the left-handed Moore on Monday were the continuation of an early trend. The Yankees are hitting .190 off lefties with far more strikeouts (54) than hits (42). They whiffed nine times against Moore.
Perhaps Tampa Bay's recent stellar pitching will also rub off on Price. The Rays have held opponents to two runs on eight hits over the last three contests.
"A lot of it is just feeding off each other," Moore said.
Accounting for both New York hits in the opener was Robinson Cano, who didn't seem particularly affected by a report Monday that linked a spokeswoman for his foundation to an anti-aging clinic under investigation by MLB. Cano, whom the woman said never received anything from the clinic, hit his sixth home run in the defeat.
"It has nothing to do with me," said Cano, hitting .333 with a team-leading 14 RBIs. "I'm just going to keep playing my game."
The Yankees (10-8) were without third baseman Kevin Youkilis, who missed his second straight game due to lower back stiffness. Lyle Overbay started in his place and went 0 for 3.
"It might be a couple more days," manager Joe Girardi said of Youkilis. "We'll see how he is (Tuesday)."
New York will give the ball to right-hander Phil Hughes (0-2, 6.43 ERA), who is also trying to iron things out after a shaky start. But his last outing seemed to be a step in the right direction, as he gave up two runs - both solo homers - and six hits in seven innings at Arizona on Thursday.
"I felt more like myself, being aggressive, attacking hitters," Hughes told the team's official website. "The first couple of starts I was being a little timid and felt out of sorts. I certainly felt like I was back to doing what I do."
Hughes is 3-4 with a 4.17 ERA in seven starts against Tampa Bay. Yunel Escobar is 7 for 16 off of him while Matt Joyce is 5 of 11. Ben Zobrist is hitless in 12 at_bats.
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