Available for trade: One All-Star pitcher, lefthanded, Cy Young Award winner, hasn't given up a run in 16 innings, or more than three in the past two months. Contact the Minnesota Twins for references.
David Price, reportedly being shopped around by the Rays as the trade deadline approaches, crushed the Twins' back-in-the-race ambitions Saturday, ruthlessly limiting them to four hits over eight scoreless innings as Tampa Bay cruised to a 5-1 victory at Target Field.
"When he can throw most of his pitches for strikes, mix in-and-out, get ahead of guys like he did today, he's tough," said Trevor Plouffe, whose first-inning double made him one of only two Twins to reach second base while Price was in. "He's one of the best pitchers in the game."
The Twins pointed to this 10-game homestand as their chance to take a stand against another lost summer, but Tampa Bay's pitching is making that stand look more like a cross-your-fingers fantasy. The Twins went 11 consecutive innings without touching third base, something that the Rays allowed only once Price was watching from the dugout.
Phil Hughes, meanwhile, gave up 11 hits and five runs over seven innings in his second-half debut, absorbing the loss as the last-place Twins fell behind two more teams, Boston and these Rays, in an increasingly futile wild-card chase. They are 10 games out of the division race and 7½ games behind the last playoff team, and they have seven teams to climb over to get there.
"It's a little disappointing, but there's a lot of season left, a lot of games at home," Hughes said gamely. "It starts tomorrow."
Well, at least Price doesn't. The All-Star, about to get too expensive for the small-budget Rays, has won five consecutive games amid where's-he-headed hysteria, and he was in utter control against the Twins, striking out nine — including rookie Danny Santana four times.
"Price was unbelievable. He had great stuff," Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said.
Say, wouldn't he like to manage such a dominating lefthander once more?
"You should walk right up to [General Manager Terry Ryan's] office and tell him that," Gardenhire said, laughing at the notion. "He's available for a steep price."
True. It would take one of the Twins' very best prospects just to pry him away from the Rays — think Buxton, Sano, Meyer or Stewart — then about $18 million to cover next season, followed by a commitment of, oh, about $175 million or so to keep him from becoming a free agent 15 months from now.
Sounds like a good idea to Plouffe. "I don't think any team would pass on him," he said, though that's coming from someone who doesn't sign the checks.
OK, maybe it's a fantasy for the modest-budget Twins, just like their charge to the AL Central crown is turning out to be. Just as their chances of beating Price (10-7) on a night when Hughes (10-6) didn't have his best stuff turned out to be.
The Twins turned five double plays, four of them to support Hughes — "I don't think I had four double plays all last year," said the notorious fly-ball pitcher. But when he gave up four hits in the second inning, including Sean Rodriguez's two-run homer that gave the Rays a 3-0 lead, it felt more like 30-0.
"You've got to try and match him as best you can," Hughes said, "and after that home run … your heart sinks."
Twins fans know the feeling.