10/24/08 8:50 AM ET
Price wins big battle against Howard
Rays prodigy bests Phils slugger twice in Game 2
By Anthony DiComo / MLB.com
Don't be fooled by that seemingly tame scenario, however. Ryan Howard -- perhaps the man most capable of altering this series with one swing of his bat -- was on deck. And he was quite intent on doing something, anything, to make Game 2 just that -- a game.
Price, baseball's favorite new prodigy, was quite intent on doing the opposite. And five pitches later he had accomplished his goal, punching out Howard to end the seventh. He retired Howard later in the game, as well, and that was significant. By handling Howard, Price had handled the Phillies, and had helped send the World Series back to Philadelphia all square.
"He's human, just like everybody else out there," Price said of Howard. "He doesn't have any super powers. So just make the pitch, keep the ball down, because he can definitely hit it over the fence. So just keep it down, and make the pitcher's pitch and just get him out."
Seems simple, made simpler by Price's uncanny knack for executing his pitches. Quite aware of Howard's susceptibility to breaking pitches throughout the playoffs, Price started him off with one in the seventh, spinning a slider over the outside corner for a strike. Then it was back outside with a cutter, which Howard fouled off, quickly putting him in an 0-2 hole.
Two mid-90s fastballs, both well off the plate, followed, before Price regrouped and took a few miles per hour off his next pitch. It was a fastball. It was on the outside corner. And Howard watched it sail by untouched.
"Ice in his veins, man," Rays designated hitter Cliff Floyd said of Price. "He gives you a sense of calmness when he steps on the mound. And that's a good thing for [such] an early age."
By the time Howard returned to the plate with two outs in the ninth inning, the situation had become even tenser. The Phillies had scored two runs in his absence, and with a man on first base, Howard represented the tying run -- for all of one pitch.
Price threw a first-pitch slider in nearly the same spot as he had in the seventh, and Howard bounced it to second base to end the game.
"We're not panicking at all," said Howard, who is 0-for-4 with four strikeouts with runners in scoring position in the series, and 2-for-9 overall. "We're not going to panic. We know what the situation is. We've had little bits of lulls. But I wouldn't really say it's been so much of a lull. It's just a matter of getting the runs in."
Price is a significant reason why the Phillies have been unable to do that, and his success with Howard and Chase Utley in the seventh inning was a significant reason why manager Joe Maddon allowed him to pitch to those two again in the ninth. The situation, though not as stressful as it might have been by baseball's standards, was still rather tense.
And in case anyone forgot, it was the World Series.
"I was nervous," Price said. "It was different than it was against Boston [in the ALCS]. In the bottom of the ninth inning, no one on, I was more worried than throwing to J.D. Drew [in Game 7 of the ALCS] bases loaded, two outs."
And now the Phillies have even more reason to be worried about him.
"He's going to throw strikes; he's going to attack the hitter," catcher Dioner Navarro said. "The guy's amazing. He's going to help us through the whole series."
Anthony DiComo is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.