Price ready for Texas challenge in Game 3

Price ready for Texas challenge in Game 3

ST. PETERSBURG -- David Price has accomplished a lot of things during his four seasons in the Major Leagues, but so far beating the Rangers hasn't been one of them.

Tampa Bay's overpowering left-hander has yet to pick up a victory in six regular-season starts against a Texas lineup that has become his Achilles' heel. It's the only team in the American League that he's faced but never defeated.

Those struggles came to a head during last year's AL Division Series when he lost two games to Cliff Lee. Price's chance for redemption will come on Monday night when he gets the call for Game 3 against the Rangers.

"It is tough to forget about it," Price said. "It is two postseason losses but it is something that I think about and something that I want to get over with.

"I am not intimidated by this lineup by any means, or anything like that, but it is a very good offensive lineup and they make it tough to pitch. It's postseason baseball and you have to be able to step up and make some pitches for your team."

Price, who will be matched up against Colby Lewis, is 0-3 with a 5.67 ERA in his regular-season career against Texas. Those struggles became even worse during last year's ALDS, when he surrendered eight runs in 12 2/3 innings.

The native of Tennessee had an opportunity to send Tampa Bay into the AL Championship Series during the decisive Game 5. He came up short after being outdueled by fellow left-hander Lee.

It's a moment that has somewhat haunted him ever since.

The Rangers celebrated a series victory on Tampa Bay's home turf at Tropicana Field and eventually moved on to the World Series. That created a "what if?" moment for the entire Rays ballclub, and Price took more than his fair share of the responsibility for the disappointment.

"I remember very clearly that he was extremely bitter and he felt like he let everybody down," Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey said. "Of course, that's not the case, but that's how he sees his role. He sees his role as one of the leaders here and he is one of the leaders here along with James Shields.

"Those are the top-of-the-rotation guys, and they both really kind of embrace that. A lot of guys don't, but they certainly do and he was extremely disappointed."

Price will now be tasked with trying to swing the momentum back in Tampa Bay's favor following a rough outing by Shields in Game 2 on Saturday night. Shields surrendered seven runs in five-plus innings, which allowed the Rangers to even the best-of-five series at 1.

The 26-year-old Price will be attempting to do that following a rough month of September. He enters Monday's game having allowed 11 runs -- seven earned -- in his past 10 innings. He also went through his first winless month in three years as a starter.

Price prides himself on locating all four of his pitches but has walked five batters in his past two starts and will need to regain command of the strike zone against a patient Rangers club.

Despite the recent woes, Price doesn't plan on making too many adjustments. He will sit down with Hickey and Rays manager Joe Maddon to go over a game plan that may involve more use of his secondary pitches, but the overall preparation will be the same.

"I feel that's probably when people get into trouble, when they try to do something different, as opposed to what they have been doing all year," Price said. "I have a routine that I have, and I'm going to stick to it and I feel it is a pretty good one.

"I will go out tomorrow and look to have success against the Rangers and take it from the first inning."

Price managed to post just a 12-13 record this season but the sub-.500 mark had more to do with a lack of run support than his own performance on the mound. The Rays scored two runs or fewer in 15 of his 34 starts, and one run or less nine times.

Price's 3.49 ERA was only surpassed by Detroit's Doug Fister and Los Angeles' Ervin Santana for pitchers with losing records.

The former first-overall selection of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft posted career highs in strikeouts (218) and innings pitched (224 1/3) while walking just 63.

Those numbers make it easy to understand why Maddon told reporters on Sunday afternoon that the lefty is exactly the pitcher he'd want to take the mound in the crucial Game 3.

"I always believe David will rise to the occasion," Maddon said. "I know he has had a couple of tough starts, but this guy's truly got one of the best makeups I have ever been around for a young player.

"Stuff wise, makeup wise, I always love the fact that David Price is pitching for us, and I mean that very sincerely."

Gregor Chisholm is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, North of the Border, and follow him on Twitter @gregorMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.