Price is right

Tampa Bay Rays southpaw David Price tries to continue his dominance of the Toronto Blue Jays when these AL East rivals open a three-game set at Tropicana Field on Tuesday night. Most offshore sports books monitored by the SportsOptions odds product opened Tampa Bay as a $1.40 home favorite, with the total set at seven runs.

Toronto (55-53) at Tampa Bay (56-51), 7:10 p.m. EDT

The Tampa Bay Rays and Toronto Blue Jays would be contenders in either of the AL’s other two divisions, but instead they’re looking up at a pair of teams that appear to be untouchable.

That’s exactly what the Blue Jays have found David Price to be.

With an 8-0 record against Toronto – including six wins and a sub-1.00 ERA at home – Price tries to continue his dominance of the Blue Jays when the AL East rivals open a three-game set at Tropicana Field on Tuesday night.

The Red Sox and Yankees have pulled away from the pack in the AL East, leaving the postseason as a long shot for the Rays (56-51) and Blue Jays (55-53).

The Blue Jays’ deal Wednesday for outfielder Colby Rasmus – one designed to help more in 2012 and beyond – was the only significant move either club made leading up to the trade deadline.

The big news for the Rays following Sunday’s 8-1 win at Seattle concerned the players who didn’t go anywhere. After much speculation, outfielder B.J. Upton and starter James Shields – among others – stayed put.

“I’m happy with the guys we have,” manager Joe Maddon told the Rays’ official website. “I like the guys we have a lot. … There’s still something to be derived from several people. And if we get that out of them for the last month or two, it can be like an acquisition. And it can really give us a little bit of a booster into August and September.”

One of those underperformers has been Price (9-9, 3.76 ERA), who has disappointed in 2011 after finishing second in the AL Cy Young award voting last season.

The left-hander fell to 2-4 with a 4.42 ERA over his last nine starts after giving up four runs over six innings in a 6-1 loss to Oakland last Tuesday, but he’s ready for an August turnaround.

“I still have tons of pride, so I’m going to try and throw a perfect game every time I step out there,” Price said. “There might be a little more pressure with how many games we’re out with however many to go.”

He’s been awfully close to perfect versus Toronto. Price is 8-0 with a 1.99 ERA in nine starts against the Blue Jays, going 6-0 with a 0.81 ERA at home.

As good as Price has been, Jose Bautista has still found a way to do some damage. Bautista is 8 for 19 against Price, taking him deep three times.

Perhaps facing Price will get Bautista out of his recent power funk. Despite leading the majors with 31 homers, Bautista hasn’t gone deep in 14 straight games – his longest drought since a 24-game gap in 2009.

Bautista is just a .220 hitter at Tropicana Field since arriving in Toronto, however, and his team’s struggles in St. Petersburg precede his 2008 arrival. The Rays have won 12 consecutive series when the Blue Jays visit, going 27-9.

Toronto comes in with some momentum after taking two of three from Texas, winning Sunday’s series finale 7-3 behind a strong start from Brandon Morrow and Rasmus’ first two hits in the AL.

Ricky Romero (8-9, 3.08) tries to sustain that while replicating his performance Wednesday against Baltimore. After posting a 5.87 ERA in his first four July starts, the left-hander held the Orioles to four hits over 8 1-3 innings in a 3-0 victory.

Romero is 1-1 with a 1.93 ERA in two home starts versus Tampa Bay this season. He has a 4.43 ERA in three career visits to Tropicana Field.

Ben Zobrist and Johnny Damon are a combined 14 for 31 in their careers versus Romero.

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