TORONTO -- The Blue Jays went all-in to acquire David Price prior to the non-waiver Trade Deadline because they felt he was the missing piece that would push them over the top in the American League East. So far, he has been exactly as advertised.
Price has been the difference in a tight division race against the Yankees, and if he had instead gone to New York, the standings might look the opposite. Toronto's ace has kept the Yankees in check during his brief time with the club, and he was at it again Monday night with seven dominating innings in a 4-2 victory. He threw 87 of his 114 pitches for strikes, fifth most this season. Clayton Kershaw's 95 strikes against the Giants during a 2-1 win on Sept. 2 is the most.
The AL Cy Young Award contender is now 8-1 with a 1.95 ERA in 10 starts with the Blue Jays. He's a perfect 3-0 vs. New York, and with a 3 1/2-game lead in the division, Price's presence has been the X-factor for Toronto.
"He's been unbelievable really," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "Four times he has faced these guys, the team we're competing with right now, and that's not easy to do, they've seen a lot of him. What can you say really? That was the whole idea behind getting him. Trades don't always work out right, but this one worked out right."
Toronto and New York entered play on Monday night on opposite ends of the spectrum. The Yankees had just won two of three from the Mets and were riding the high of a comeback the night before. The Blue Jays had just lost two games in a row to the Red Sox, which included a pair of late-inning miscues by the bullpen.
The old cliché in baseball is that momentum is only as good as the next day's starting pitcher, and never was that more evident than in the series opener. Yankees starter Adam Warren surrendered three runs in the first inning, while Price escaped a bases-loaded situation in the third to begin a string of 14 straight batters retired.
With the win, Price improved to a perfect 5-0 with Toronto in games following a loss. There are a lot of expectations placed on a team's best pitcher, but putting an end to losing streaks is arguably at the top of that list and Price has found a way to continuously come through when the Blue Jays needed him the most.
"That's why you work as hard as you do," said Price, who allowed two hits while striking out six over seven scoreless frames. "I've definitely not fared well in big games in my career, but I've definitely thrown the ball extremely well in other big games as well. I'm happy to come out, we got the win tonight and that's the most important thing."
What doesn't show up in Price's pitching line were some of the tense moments of Monday's ballgame. He snared a comebacker in the first inning off the bat of Jacoby Ellsbury that could have caused some serious damage, and he also pulled a Houdini Act in the third that would have resulted in all sorts of trouble on the scoreboard.
New York loaded the bases with one out and had Alex Rodriguez coming to the plate. The at-bat went to a full count and Rodriguez fouled off a couple of tough pitches before striking out on a 93-mph cutter. Brian McCann then flew out to center, and that was as close as the Yankees would get to Price.
"When you face an elite pitcher, you usually get one crack at him," Rodriguez said. "We had it and we came up short tonight."