ST. PETERSBURG -- Don't bury the Rays just yet.
Perhaps the Zim Bear giveaway fired up the troops, maybe they just get up for big games -- like when they're facing a Justin Verlander -- or, more than likely, the Rays might have just reached a point where they had had enough and finally decided to fire back. And fire back they did in an emotional 4-2 win over the Tigers on Friday at Tropicana Field with 19,557 watching.
"We looked more normal," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "More like how we're supposed to look. I think the energy level was better. Why? I have no idea why. It was just a matter of getting over that weekend at Bernie's in Kansas City and Philadelphia, it just got better. It was just a matter of time. We have great professionals right here. It's not always going to be an oil painting, but I really liked the way we went after it tonight."
The win snapped a four-game losing streak, improving the Rays' record to 41-36.
Entering Friday night's game, the Rays had few working parts. The offense brought in the second-worst batting average in the American League at .233. And only the Orioles had more errors (67) than the Rays, who carried 66 into the contest.
But the magic started early and continued throughout the game as the Rays seemingly were able to pull a rabbit out of the hat at every turn.
Two of the best pitchers in baseball started in David Price for the Rays and Verlander for the Tigers.
Price dispatched of the Tigers in the first, helped largely by a nifty 1-4-3 double play, which would be the first of three inning-ending twin killings.
"That's where the momentum swings right there, whenever you can get an inning-ending double play," Price said.
But double plays were just the teaser for the Rays' defensive effort. Jose Molina gunned down Austin Jackson attempting to steal second, and third baseman Brooks Conrad pulled off a bang-bang play on a chopper hit to him for the first out of the second inning.
Desmond Jennings made the play of the night, though, when he chased down Quintin Berry's foul drive with two outs in the third and made the catch running toward the stands along the left-field line. Just when the Rays left fielder made the catch he hit the wall, knocking his legs out from under him.
"When he hit it, I took off to the spot where I thought it was going," Jennings said. "I knew the wall was there. I knew what was going to happen. I just tried to concentrate on the catch. You know, I knew I was going to hit the wall. I knew it probably wasn't going to be pretty, but I concentrated on the ball."
Given what happened with Dewayne Wise this week -- when the Yankees outfielder acted like he caught the ball after falling into the stands but did not -- Jennings was asked if he had to display the ball to the umpire.
"He ran out there," said Jennings with a chuckle. "He didn't make the call until I showed it to him."
Jennings led off the bottom of the third and connected for the first of his two solo home runs off the reigning American League MVP and Cy Young Award winner.
"I feel like I hadn't gotten a hit in a month," Jennings said. "It's Verlander, he throws his fastball, you know he's going to throw it. I got in fastball counts and put some good swings on the ball."
Ben Zobrist added a solo shot, giving the Rays three on the night, making them one of four teams to reach the Tigers' ace for three home runs in a game.
While the offense and defense were significantly better than they have been lately, Maddon pointed to Price's performance for leading the way.
Even though he had to leave the game after seven innings for precautionary measures due to lower back stiffness, Price held the Tigers to two runs on five hits while striking out seven to earn his AL-leading 11th victory of the season.
"David was fantastic," Maddon said. "It all starts with David -- 78 pitches, seven innings. He had tremendous command of his fastball tonight. Of course, Desmond's home runs were outstanding, but good energy and the starting pitching always sets that up."
Price has now made 11 career regular-season starts against former Cy Young winners and is 7-1 with a 2.24 ERA. Friday night's win moved him to 4-1 with a 2.23 ERA in seven career appearances against the Tigers.
"[Price] was getting ahead of hitters," the Tigers' Gerald Laird said. "He was using the strike zone to his advantage and making pitches. He's got tremendous stuff. His velocity was good tonight. He was throwing that ride back to righties where the two-seamer starts right at them and comes back over the inner half of the plate. He had electric stuff and he mixed it up pretty good tonight."
Jake McGee retired the Tigers in order in the eighth and Fernando Rodney followed suit in the ninth to preserve the win while recording his 22nd save of the season.
"Every win is big, but losing four straight and coming out and playing good against Verlander like that, it builds confidence and makes us feel good about ourselves again," Jennings said.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.