NEW YORK -- A few hours before David Price's first pitch as a Detroit Tiger, Derek Jeter walked to Yankee Stadium's home batting cage for some extra BP. The 40-year-old Jeter has seen a lot in his career, so as he spoke with a familiar face he bottom-lined what the Tigers had acquired.
"He is like an old-fashioned power pitcher," Jeter said. "He throws 98 and he doesn't walk you."
On Tuesday night, Price wore a different uniform, but he was the same starter -- a scary mixture of power and precision. He did what the great power pitchers do, almost effortlessly turning a potentially poor start into pretty good one.
Feeling a little "weird" in his new threads, he gave up three runs, two on solo homers, in the first five innings, then went on to pitch until he'd gotten two outs in the ninth. He wasn't flashy, but a final line of three runs on eight hits with 10 strikeouts and no walks is pretty darn good.
"I'm happy it is over and I'm happy we won," Price said after the Tigers took home the victory, won 4-3 on Alex Avila's home run in the 12th. "I finally feel part of the team to contribute tonight. It is always a tough place to pitch. It is always a tough lineup to pitch against."
Price felt a little strange as a Tiger, but he fell back on his "having fun" mantra to ease any awkwardness.
"It was a little weird, absolutely," Price, 28, said. "It probably helped facing a team that I have faced multiple times. It definitely felt weird, wearing the Tigers uniform for the first time on the field. It feels good that it is over."
It really is just beginning for Detroit. It really is still crazy to believe that Tigers president Dave Dombrowski has created such a Frankenstein of a starting five. The fourth starter (Anibal Sanchez) won the AL ERA title in 2013. Rick Porcello, 13-5 with a 3.18 ERA, nearly made the All-Star team. The other two guys go by the names of Scherzer and Verlander. Price may be the best of all of them.
After his good, not great outing against the Yankees, Price's ERA is now 1.83 in his past eight starts. He has struck out 66, while walking 10 in those games. The Yankees actually did a little better against Price than they usually do.
Coming in, the way Price had pitched in the Bronx, they maybe should have stitched "Steinbrenner" on the back of his new Tigers jersey because he had owned the Yankees. In his previous five starts at Yankee Stadium, he went 4-0 with a 1.91 ERA. The Yankees may have nicked Price for a few runs Tuesday, but they are glad they won't see him again unless they meet Detroit in October.
"Same pitcher, different uniform," Brett Gardner said. "I would prefer he went to the National League, but it is nice he went to a team in another division."
For whatever reason, Brian McCann has his way with Price. Normal rules for lefty versus lefty be darned, McCann has gone deep in each of the three games he has faced Price this season. On Tuesday, in the second, McCann turned a 95 mph Price fastball into his 12th home run of the year to tie it at one. Price even noted that McCann has a quarter of his homers against him.
Like all the great ones, though, Price is good at controlling the damage. He shut the door in the sixth, seventh and eighth. With two outs in the ninth, he handed the ball to Joba Chamberlain to send the game to extras.
"He did exactly what everyone was hoping he would do," Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said of Price. "He pitched deep into the game, into the ninth inning. He gave up three runs against a very good team."
It may only just be August, and the Yankees' overall record may not be great, but these past two nights have had a playoff-like atmosphere. On Monday, the Yankees squeaked by Max Scherzer, 2-1. Next up is Justin Verlander on Wednesday.
On Tuesday, the two teams played late into the night until Avila finally hit a solo shot off Matt Daley in the 12th. It ended a game filled with highlights. From Dellin Betances electrifying the crowd by lighting up the scoreboard gun at 100 to strike out Miguel Cabrera to end the eighth, to Chamberlain hearing boos and mistakenly hitting Derek Jeter -- "the worst moment of my life," Chamberlain described -- this game delivered.
Still, one guy subtly stood above them all. The 6-foot-6 Price wasn't his best, but he was still plenty good. That is why the Tigers have to scare everyone in baseball -- and they haven't even started dominating yet.