Given the way he’s been swinging the bat and his recent feud with Tampa Bay’s David Price, Boston slugger David Ortiz evidently had no intention to sit out Friday night.
Ortiz will start for the visiting Red Sox as they try to stop the Rays’ season-best winning streak with Jon Lester taking on Price in what could be each red-hot left-hander’s final start for his respective club.
Price (10-7, 3.06 ERA) faces the fading Red Sox (47-55) for the first time since beaning Ortiz on May 30, setting the tone for a bench-clearing brawl in the fourth inning of Tampa Bay’s 3-2, 10-inning loss at Fenway Park.
Ortiz felt it was retribution for two homers he hit off Price in Game 2 of the AL division series last year. The ace was irked afterward because he thought Ortiz had admired one of the shots.
"I have no more respect for him," Ortiz said after the May skirmish. "Last year, we kick his (butt) in the playoffs. … First at-bat of this season, he drills me. That means it’s war. It’s on. Next time he better bring the gloves."
It was uncertain if Ortiz would get a chance to play in the opener after he injured his back on a check swing in the eighth inning of Thursday’s 8-0 loss at Toronto. However, he is in the starting lineup, set to bat third.
Ortiz finished the four-game set at Rogers Centre with four home runs and eight RBIs. He’s 9 for 27 with two homers versus Price since the start of 2012, including last year’s playoffs.
Though he’s been the subject of trade rumors ever since Tampa Bay (49-53) got off to a dreadful start, Price has been outstanding while helping the Rays win seven in a row and 18 of 23.
He’s won all five of his starts in that span with a 0.90 ERA, including 16 shutout innings in two outings during the current win streak as Tampa Bay has gotten back in the playoff picture.
"We need to win. Period," Price told MLB’s official website. "We need to continue to play the baseball that we have."
The Red Sox ripped Price for seven runs in last year’s ALDS matchup and for five runs in the first meeting this season May 24, but six days later he limited them to two runs in seven innings. He’s just 4-5 with a 4.24 ERA in 11 career home meetings.
Lester (10-7, 2.50) also has had to endure ongoing trade rumors with the defending World Series champs at the bottom of the AL East following three straight losses in Toronto.
The All-Star can’t be blamed, going 4-0 with a 0.85 ERA in his last seven starts – all Boston victories. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in three of his last four after surrendering four hits over eight innings in Sunday’s 6-0 home win over Kansas City.
Now Lester will make his first start since principal owner John Henry announced Wednesday that the club would table contract talks with him until the offseason.
"I think Jon has handled this exceptionally well throughout the course of this entire season, so I don’t see it changing anything," manager John Farrell said.
Lester has won his last three starts versus Tampa Bay, including Game 1 of last year’s playoff series. In his only meeting this season, he allowed four hits with 12 strikeouts in seven innings of a 4-0 home win June 1.
The Red Sox swept that three-game set after dropping three straight at Tropicana Field from May 23-25.