David Price took a shutout into the eighth inning and Matt Joyce drove in three runs Monday to help the Tampa Bay Rays begin the season with a 9-2 victory over the Toronto Blue Jays.
Price (1-0) allowed two runs and six hits over 7 1-3 innings to beat R.A. Dickey in a matchup of 2012 Cy Young Award winners. The hard-throwing lefty walked one and struck out six before a crowd of 31,042 at Tropicana Field — the Rays’ ninth consecutive sellout for a home opener.
Joyce had a sacrifice fly and two-run double off Dickey (0-1), who yielded six two-out runs in five innings. Evan Longoria got the Rays going with a first-inning RBI single and Wil Myers drove in two more when he singled with the bases loaded in the second.
Price limited the Blue Jays to four singles and had only allowed two runners past second base before Maicer Izturis opened the eighth with his second hit of the day. Pinch-hitter Erik Kratz followed with a first-pitch, two-run homer over the centre field wall.
Toronto’s Jose Reyes left the lineup after his first at-bat because of a tight left hamstring. The star shortstop led off the game and was robbed of a hit on a diving catch by Rays centre fielder Desmond Jennings. He was replaced in the field by Ryan Goins.
The budget-minded Rays spent generously by their standards, boosting one of baseball’s lowest payrolls from $62 million to a franchise-record of around $80 million in order to keep most of last year’s AL wild-card roster together and make a run at a fifth playoff berth in seven seasons.
A decision to not trade Price — instead signing him to a $14 million, one-year deal — was a big part of that.
The 28-year-old lefty became the Rays’ first 20-game winner and edged Justin Verlander in AL Cy Young balloting two years ago. He got off to a slow start in 2013, but finished strong after spending more than a month on the disabled list, leading the majors in innings, complete games and fewest walks per nine innings after July 2.
The Rays also won three times last year in games involving matchups of Cy Young winners, with Price beating Dickey on May 9 and CC Sabathia on Aug. 24, as well as going nine innings against Tim Lincecum without getting a decision in an extra-innings victory over the Giants on Aug. 3.
Dickey dropped to 14-13 with a 4.21 ERA last season after winning 20 games and NL Cy Young honours with the Mets two years ago. The 39-year-old knuckleballer is off to another shaky start after allowing six runs, five hits and walking six over five innings against essentially the same Tampa Bay lineup he went 3-1 against in 2013.