Price outduels Halladay in Rays win
Rookie southpaw allows one run in six innings vs. Jays
ST. PETERSBURG -- Good teams are expected to respond to adversity the way the Rays have this week.
After leaving Texas with their collective tails between their legs by virtue of a three-game sweep at the hands of the Rangers, the Rays returned to Tropicana Field and got out their brooms to sweep a three-game set from the Blue Jays. The final piece for the sweep came wrapped in a 3-2 defeat of Roy Halladay on Thursday afternoon with 25,749 watching.
One thing the Tampa Bay didn't lack Thursday was heroes, beginning with the franchise prodigal son, David Price.
Price gave a nice accounting for himself in his ninth start of the season after struggling Saturday in Texas. The rookie left-hander allowed just one run on six hits in six innings while striking out seven and walking only one to pick up his third win of the season and his second quality start.
"That's embarrassing what happened in Texas, and I didn't want anything close to that to happen [Thursday]," Price said. "I made my mind up I was going to come in here and give us a chance to win.
"I had good command of all my pitches today. I put the pressure on them. I was 0-2, 1-2 a lot, and that's when you can make things happen for yourself."
Price's outing came on the heels of Scott Kazmir's poor showing Wednesday night that saw the Rays survive the rough start to come out on top in a 10-9 slugfest.
"I didn't want [Price] to overthink it with each hitter," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "He went out there with a very simple game plan. He executed it well.
"You know that he's good and he's going to be good for many years to come. He may have some speed bumps, but I know he's going to be able to handle it."
Backing Price -- and the bullpen -- was a stellar effort by the defense.
Ben Zobrist created the Rays' first defensive highlight in the fifth, when he charged hard from second base to barehand a ball that Price deflected. With ball in hand, Zobrist fired a strike to Carlos Pena at first to nip Aaron Hill for the third out.
B.J. Upton added an over-the-shoulder grab of a drive hit by Vernon Wells that went to the deepest part of center field for the second out in the sixth. Had the ball fallen, the Blue Jays would have scored at least one run.
"That was a great route he ran on that fly ball," Maddon said. "He recognized where that ball was going to be. And he just does it so effortlessly. And he does that in a way that reminds me a lot of when I used to have Devo, Devon White. It looks a lot like that, those long strides eating up ground. And he's able to just get to the right spot."
Finally, Carl Crawford made a running catch going toward the left-field corner on John McDonald's drive against Dan Wheeler leading off the ninth.
"It was awesome," Wheeler said. "It kind of helped me get going. You're kind of always feeling yourself out with that first hitter, and then I missed with a slider and he put some pretty good wood on it. That's one thing I do -- I pitch to my defense, because I feel we have the best defense in the league."
Amid rumors he could soon be traded, Halladay put forth his usual stellar effort. Even after a 20-minute power-outage delay -- which followed a lengthy turn at bat by the Blue Jays -- Halladay returned to the mound for the bottom of the seventh and retired the Rays in order in his final inning of the day. Nevertheless, Tampa Bay was able to best Toronto's ace for the second time in just over a week.
Carlos Pena's opposite-field two-run double in the fifth put the Rays up 3-1 and proved to be the difference in the game.
"Well, other than that double down the line [by Pena], we're in the game," Halladay said. "A couple more inches, it's foul, and you get another chance. It wasn't a bad pitch. A little more up than I wanted to. It was a tough spot. It's also good hitting."
Upton said seeing Halladay twice in a short period of time helped the Rays' cause Thursday.
"You can only see a guy so many times before you pick up tendencies, and that really helped us tonight," Upton said.
With the victory, the Rays (47-39) moved to eight games over .500 with three games remaining on the schedule before the All-Star break.
"The Blue Jays are such a professional team and they do so many things well that to be able to walk away winners of three close games is a really good thing," Maddon said.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.