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Rays

Price leads Rays to badly-needed win

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Published:   |   Updated: March 18, 2013 at 12:55 PM
NEW YORK -

The hooting and hollering could be heard in the tunnel outside the visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium late Friday night and that could only mean one thing - a Tampa Bay Rays victory.

And make no mistake, it was a big victory for the struggling Rays, who welcomed David Price back to the rotation and the offense back to life.

Together, they combined for a 6-4 victory against the New York Yankees that snapped a three-game losing streak and enabled the Rays to move to within three games of the Yankees, who began the night tied with Baltimore for first place in the American League East.

"It was very important," Price said of the victory. "I don't know how many games we have left, but we need to win a lot of them."

Price, skipped in his last start because of soreness in his left shoulder, gave the Rays seven innings of five-hit ball. He said the shoulder was not an issue and that his legs and back felt fine after the layoff.

Price had trouble with his fastball command Friday but threw what he called his best curveball of the season. He allowed a pair of runs but finished strong, retiring the final eight batters he faced in winning his American League-leading 18th game.

"He was really good," Rays manager Joe Maddon said, "and he kept getting better."

Joel Peralta replaced Price in the eighth inning, allowed a two-run home run to Alex Rodriguez, pitched around Robinson Cano then gave way to Fernando Rodney, who was asked to convert his second five-out save of the season.

Rodney did, retiring all five batters he faced for his 43rd save.

"We had two Cy Young candidates pitch for us," Maddon said. "I thought they did an outstanding job. ... We had two guys at the top of their games. It was really fun to watch them."

The Rays scored six runs while getting swept in Baltimore - two in each loss.

They scored three in the fifth inning Friday to take a 3-1 lead. It was the most runs the Rays scored in an inning since they scored six times in the second inning Sept. 2 against the Blue Jays in Toronto.

"We played better offensively, that's what it came down to," Maddon said. "We've been pitching well enough to win game. We finally got the hits. We got some hits at some big moments.

"The error at the end of the game by them was a big play, because that tack-on run really helped us psychologically and possibly hurt them a bit."

The tack-on runs came as single runs in the seventh, eighth and ninth innings.

B.J. Upton hit his 23rd home run of the season in the eighth, matching his total from 2011. He's one home run shy of the career-best 24 he hit in 2007.

It was also his fifth home run in his past five games and 13th home run in his last 32 games, making this the hottest home run streak of his career.

The other two tack-on runs came with the help of a pair of stolen bases.

Elliot Johnson bunted into a force-out in the seventh inning, stole second and scored on a single by Ben Zobrist.

After Rodriguez made it a one-run game in the bottom of the eighth, Desmond Jennings singled with one out in the ninth, stole second and came home when Evan Longoria reached on an error.

Three outs later the visiting clubhouse was rocking.

"We haven't had (a post-win celebration) for a while so I think it was a little more lively," Price said. "Nobody had their heads down after Baltimore.

"That's the one thing I've really noticed about this clubhouse, it never panics, so that's good."

It helped that Price was going for the Rays against Yankee lefty CC Sabathia. The Rays are now 7-1 when those two pitchers face each other.

While no one will argue the importance of those first six wins, win No. 7 felt a little bit better and not because it was the most recent.

"This was huge," catcher Chris Gimenez said. "Coming off what happened in Baltimore we need to take a couple of out of here. Just mentally for our sake it's big to have a couple of wins here.

"We know we can try and take care of our business right now and hopefully we don't have to do anything crazy later."

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