Toronto 5 Minnesota 1
TORONTO — David Price Day had everything from rousing ovations and powering strikeouts to the thrill of danger and the offensive explosion the Toronto Blue Jays are known for.
Thanks to 11 strikeouts from Price in eight strong innings, his debut was also a 5-1 victory against the Minnesota Twins that put the Blue Jays in a tie for an American League wild-card spot.
“I just wanted to go out there and have fun, pitch as deep as possible into the game and keep it close for our offence,” a smiling Price said. “I’m definitely thrilled with the way today went.”
Price was dominant all afternoon, especially after he gave up a home run to Torii Hunter in the second and loaded the bases with no outs in the fourth. The ace left-hander acquired last week from the Detroit Tigers showed why the Blue Jays were willing to pay a hefty price, retiring the final 15 batters he faced.
“The place was alive,” manager John Gibbons said of Price getting out of the bases-loaded jam. “That’s hard to do. I don’t care how good a pitcher you are. That’s real hard to do. But he pulled it off and really ran from there.”
As he walked off the mound following his 119th pitch, Price tipped his cap to the sellout crowd of 45,766 at Rogers Centre that fixated on and adored his every move. His 11 strikeouts tied a franchise record for a pitcher making his debut, and he allowed just three hits and two walks.
“That’s what an ace does,” said second baseman Ryan Goins, who hit a solo home run.
Price brushed off the strikeout record and said he would’ve rather gotten all 27 outs. But the way he dazzled the crowd contributed to the buzz on the holiday Monday in Toronto.
Running off the experiences in his career from the 2008 World Series run with the Tampa Bay Rays through last year’s playoffs with the Tigers, Price put his Blue Jays debut at the top of the list.
“That was the best atmosphere I’ve ever been in,” Price said. “I’ve pitched in quite a few big games, but that atmosphere today, that takes the cake. I’ve never experienced anything like that. That was cool.”
When Price was in the dugout, the lineup Josh Donaldson confidently declared the best in baseball got to Minnesota starter Ervin Santana and the bullpen to the tune of eight hits and two home runs.
In addition to Goins, Donaldson hit a two-run home run, his 27th of the season, and later heard chants of “M-V-P.”
“It’s not like we’ve seen it a couple times,” Gibbons said of Donaldson’s power. “He’s been doing it all year.”
Edwin Encarnacion and Justin Smoak each added an RBI single to help the Blue Jays move to within 5 1/2 games of the idle New York Yankees for first in the AL East. Toronto has won five of six games.
“This is a good time for us, and this is when you need to be playing your best baseball, anyhow, no matter who you’re playing,” Donaldson said. “I’m not saying that the games before weren’t important, but this is when you can make up some ground and see where lie in the standings.”
Fans lined up by the hundreds, if not thousands, outside Rogers Centre more than an hour before gates were scheduled to open for Price’s debut and Russell Martin bobblehead day. Those in the building when Price walked out to the bullpen to warm up gave him a standing ovation, and it was even louder when he returned to the dugout.
Price had the crowd rocking from his first 92 mph pitch to Brian Dozier and subsequent strikeout through the groundout he induced to wrap up the eighth inning. The 29-year-old tried to maintain focus but was never worried about fans throwing him off his routine.
“You try and feed off of it as much as you can,” Price said. “They showed me a tremendous amount of support today, and I’ve got to acknowledge that. This is the type of atmosphere you grow up wanting to be in.”
Notes — The Oakland Athletics claimed infielder/outfielder Danny Valencia off waivers from the Blue Jays. The A’s visit Toronto next week. … Outfielder Ezequiel Carrera cleared waivers and was assigned to the Triple-A Buffalo Bisons. … The Blue Jays claimed right-handed pitcher Ben Rowen off waivers from the Chicago Cubs and assigned him to Buffalo. … Among those in attendance for Price’s debut was NBA star Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder.