From the big dawg, the stud, there was an almost hangdog perplexity.
Neither haunted nor hexed by the nemesis Rangers, to hear David Price tell it. Just a kind of remorseful bewilderment ? 0-6 now in playoff starts, 0-4 against Texas.
This was not as envisioned. But that?s the unpredictability, the capriciousness, of baseball.
It was the biggest game thus far of the Blue Jays? 2015 existence ? a homely thing, as it turned out, and a confluence of the entirely unimaginable: Price, the loser, and gone after seven innings; Josh Donaldson gone too with a rattled brain pan, kneed in the noggin sliding hard into second to break up a double play; Jose Bautista, who had belted the first playoff homer of his career, gone in the eighth, doubled over in pain on the dugout steps with a cramping right hamstring.
It was as if everything that could go wrong did go wrong. As if the gods of baseball ? after bestowing so much glory on the Jays this year ? had taken a sudden mischievous dislike of the club.
Just one game, of course, just one loss. But in a five-game series, there?s precious little room to reverse throttle.
Nerves, admitted Price, usually a long cool glass of water on the bump.
Nerves to begin, at least, Game 1 of the American League Division Series at Rogers Centre ? 22 years after the last playoff game at Rogers Centre, nee SkyDome.
So maybe it wasn?t so wise, in retrospect, for manager John Gibbons to give his ace 11 days rest. That will be hotly debated, no doubt, though there?s barely time to reflect on what happened Thursday afternoon ? a 5-3 loss to Texas ? before the teams go at it again, less than 24 hours later and all eyes turning beseechingly to ace-in-training-wheels Marcus Stroman.
?It didn?t affect me,? Price insisted of the long layoff. ?The first inning, more so battling nerves. I have nerves first spring training start, first bullpen of the year. If you?re out there and you?re not nervous in those first couple of pitches, first couple of innings, I don?t feel like you?re human.
?I care a ton. I want to go out there and pitch well for my teammates and pitch well for this country, and I didn?t do that today.?
It?s disconcerting to hear Price speak of stress and tenseness because he simply hasn?t shown any such vulnerability in his short tenure as a Jay. Mostly he displays self-confidence and reliability and, bounding off the hill, the grinning buoyancy of a roundly-acknowledged winner.
So now we know that even so poised and sanguine a marquee pro can wobble under the strain of expectations, particularly those he puts on himself. What lies beneath is what no else sees.
?Whenever a duck?s swimming, they look calm and collected on the outside of the water. But below that, they?re kicking away.??
Post-season heebie-jeebies, in front of an expectant sold-out crowd, might explain the first inning, when Price surrendered two walks before getting out of the jam by inducing a double-play ball from Prince Fielder. He came back strong in the second frame, striking out the side on 14 pitches.
?Third inning, I just didn?t make any pitches.?
Second pitch to leadoff hitter Rougned Odor, hit him. One out later, with the infield wide open, Delino DeShields stroked a single up the middle that brought Odor home for the first run of the game. Ryan Goins, Toronto?s defensively superb second baseman, was moving towards the base in what he explained later had been a set play ? intended as a pickoff by catcher Russell Martin, if DeShields had either swung through the pitch or taken it. DeShields gave Texas a 2-0 lead off Adrian Beltre?s single..
?We?ve been running that play all year,? said Goins. ?Two-one, we throw a change-up. I was covering for the back-pick from the catcher. We usually throw a pitch that is going to be pulled, which it was. He did a good job of hitting it to second. So. What can you do???
What you can?t do, what Price did, was plunk Odor again, leading off the fifth, after Toronto had got on the board, with Ben Revere scoring on an infield dribbler by Edwin Encarnacion. That put a halt to Texas starter Yovani Gallardo?s 16 2/3 shutout streak against the Jays.
?I didn?t execute three pitches to him,? said Price, of the bane that Odor became, scoring two runs and then, holy-moley, taking him yard in the seventh. ?I didn?t mean to hit him either time. He would probably have liked to hit a line drive off my shin but I?m sure he?ll settle for a home run.??
After thrice beating the Rangers in the regular season, Price believed he had buried whatever mystifying edge they held over him. ?I felt I got that monkey off my back.??
Whenever the Jays put up runs, the Rangers countered.
?We scored in the (fourth, fifth and sixth),? said Price. ?In two of those innings I gave runs right back. And we need those shut-down innings at this time of the year.??
There was not, it should be emphasized, great dejection in the clubhouse. ?I?m over it,? said Martin, slinging a backpack over his shoulder. ?I?m ready to go tomorrow. I don?t know how many series where we lost the first game and still came out and won the series. It?s good to have that in the back of our mind.?
In fact, when losing the first game of a series, the Jays were 4-16-2, win-loss-split. But they were 3-2-0 after the trade deadline and the arrival of Price.
If the lanky lefty gets to pitch in this series again, it will have to go five games.
More Blue Jays at thestar.com:
The roof hasn't caved in, despite Jays' Game 1 loss: Arthur
Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista exit Blue Jays' Game 1 loss to Rangers
Odor hurts Jays in field, on base and at bat: Griffin