While Jon Lester has followed the worst year of his career with a strong start this season, David Price has mostly struggled after winning the 2012 AL Cy Young Award.
Their respective teams are also going in different directions.The unbeaten Lester looks to help the visiting Boston Red Sox avoid a 10th loss in 12 games as Price, stuck on one win, tries to lift the Tampa Bay Rays to a seventh consecutive victory Wednesday night.Boston (22-17) was 12 games over .500 on May 2, but it has since won just twice and fell 5-3 to Tampa Bay in Tuesday's series opener.One of those victories came mainly due to a stellar performance from Lester (5-0, 2.73 ERA), who took a perfect game into the sixth inning and finished with a one-hitter in a 5-0 victory over Toronto on Friday."The no-hitter, perfect game, all that stuff, the stars have got to be perfectly aligned for you," said Lester, who had a 5.60 ERA over his previous three starts. "I think (Friday) classifies as a little bit of a grinder for me."The left-hander opposed Price on April 13 and allowed one run in seven innings of Boston's 2-1, 10-inning victory. Lester had lost his previous four starts against the Rays with a 7.71 ERA."Obviously you know going into the game who you're pitching against," Lester said after last month's matchup. "You can't worry about, 'OK, we've got Price.' You start worrying about the pitcher, you're worrying about the wrong things."While Lester is more than halfway to his victory total last season as he finished 9-14 with a career-worst 4.82 ERA, Price (1-3, 4.78) has yet to discover the form that helped him win a career-high 20 games last year. He struck out eight and allowed four runs -- two earned -- in eight innings of a 5-4, 10-inning win over Toronto on Thursday, marking the first time he's given up fewer than three earned runs in five outings.The left-hander said he's been dealing with rashes all season, and he underwent an allergy test and received medication Tuesday. He's also experienced blurred vision, which has been attributed to a reaction he's had to Tampa Bay's new laundry system."Just concentration-wise, it's not that easy," manager Joe Maddon told the team's official website. "Your head feels like a block of cement, (but) David doesn't make excuses. I'd like to believe nobody around here makes excuses; I'm just saying that there are contributing factors there."Price has gone 2-0 with a 2.21 ERA in his last five starts against Boston after allowing one run and striking out eight in six innings opposite Lester last month.He'll look to help Tampa Bay (20-18) extend its season-best winning streak after Jose Molina keyed the club's sixth straight win Tuesday, snapping an 0-for-22 slump by going 3 for 3 with a two-run single.The Red Sox couldn't muster much more than David Ortiz's first-inning, three-run homer and finished with three hits. Ortiz is 2 for 21 over his last six after beginning the season hitting safely in 15 straight as his hitting streak reached 27 games.Boston is riding its third three-game losing streak of May."We've seen the past couple years when we were in a funk, it's pretty much everybody," Ortiz said. "If you look right now, it's pretty much everybody struggling. Hopefully we bounce back and good things happen."Ortiz is 5 for 25 with seven strikeouts lifetime off Price.
People have asked the question - what's different about David Price? The one significant difference has been his complete lack of effectiveness managing the outer half against righties with his fastball.