NEW YORK -- The note hung atop David Price's locker on a piece of yellow paper.
Price, one of two marquee acquisitions by the Toronto Blue Jays at the trade deadline, wrote it himself.
It was a slogan Price learned from James Shields while the two were pitching together in Tampa Bay.
IF YOU DON'T LIKE IT PITCH BETTER!!
"It's something I live by, and it works," Price said.
In his previous two starts against the New York Yankees as a member of the Detroit Tigers, Price had totaled more hits (22) and runs (16) allowed than outs recorded (13). He knew those exact stats, too.
Clearly, it was eating him up inside.
So Price decided enough was enough. He didn't like it, so he was going to pitch better.
And that's exactly what he did on Saturday afternoon at Yankee Stadium -- dominating a potent lineup that usually dominates him.
The 29-year-old left-hander threw seven shutout innings, and the surging Blue Jays blanked the Yankees 6-0 to move within 2.5 games of their division rivals in the American League East standings.
"I made better pitches," Price said, chuckling when asked about his success against the Bronx Bombers. "I got ahead more often, and when I was behind I was able to make a better pitch, and that's what it boils down to."
In two starts since being dealt to Toronto, Price (2-0, 0.60 ERA as a Blue Jay) has posted 18 strikeouts and surrendered just one run in 15 innings. So far, he's been everything the Blue Jays thought they were getting when they sent three highly touted left-handed pitching prospects (Daniel Norris, Matt Boyd and Jairo Labourt) to the Tigers in return for Price's services.
The Yankees decided to pass on Price, unwilling to part with the likes of Luis Severino and Aaron Judge. They might end up paying for it down the road.
"Well, he’s pretty good," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said of Price in what was clearly a major understatement. "That's what we envisioned when we pulled that trade off. But that's what he does. Every time he goes out there he's got a chance to throw a shutout. You know he's going to pitch deep into the game because he's strong. And he's got the reputation too, so he's a little intimidating even before you start facing him."
The Jays (60-52) have won seven straight games and are 10-1 since their other marquee trade-deadline acquisition, Troy Tulowitzki, made his Toronto debut. Over that span, they have gained 5.5 games on the first-place Yankees (61-48). As the Blue Jays attempts to make the playoffs for the first time since 1993, their confidence is currently sky-high. The recent additions of Price, Tulowitzki, Ben Revere, Mark Lowe, LaTroy Hawkins and Cliff Pennington by Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopolous have clearly had a galvanizing effect.
"This is about the 100th time I've heard that question. Sorry, no offense," Gibbons said. "We added two marquee players and then [four] other really good players. I notice something different. We've always been a confident group, but I sense something different. And so far, it's paid off."
Justin Smoak snapped a scoreless tie in the sixth inning with his first career grand slam. Tulowitzki added a solo home run -- his third with his new team -- an inning later. The Yankees mustered just three hits off Price while striking out seven times.
"It's a lot more fun catching him than hitting against him," said Russell Martin, who contributed an RBI single in the eighth, of Price. "He's really easy to work with. He's got great command. ... He's in control of his own game. So I just try to get in sync with him and try to find out what he wants to do. But he has an idea of every pitch that he wants to throw, and he throws them with conviction. And he knows what he's doing, so it makes my job a lot easier."
Fueled by AL MVP candidate Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista and Edwin Encarnacion, the Blue Jays already had the highest-scoring offense in baseball. The addition of Tulowitzki in the leadoff spot only makes them tougher. And now, their much-maligned rotation has been far and away better, too. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Toronto starters had a 4.39 ERA through July 28 that ranked 23rd in the major leagues. Since then, they rank first with a 2.09 ERA -- 38 points lower than the second-place New York Mets.
"This is the best team I think I've been on right now," Martin said. "I mean, just the length of lineup -- even the pieces we have on the bench. We match up against any pitcher. Any pitcher you want to throw out there, we match up against them with the pieces we have. Defensively, and the starting pitching now with the length of our bullpen, we got a lot better, so there are really no weaknesses on this team."
Their clubhouse also seems extremely loose. It feels like there is a lot of camaraderie between the players -- even with all the roster turnover. Marco Estrada recently got a motorized scooter. His teammates liked it, so they all have one now.
"It's a good group of guys," Martin said. "Nobody takes themselves too seriously."
But the Blue Jays aren't resting on their laurels. Back-to-back wins over the Yankees is nothing.
They haven't even made the playoffs yet. There is still work to be done.
"It doesn't do anything yet, because we don't feel like we've accomplished what we need to accomplish in order to attain our goal, which is winning the World Series," Bautista said. "We're not there yet, we're not gonna sit here and celebrate two wins in the middle of August -- even if it is against a first-place team, we've got a long way to go. They're a great team. We're a great team. We've just gotta continue to play good."