The left-hander allowed two hits over six innings and the Rays beat the Boston Red Sox 14-5 on Tuesday night to move 1½ games behind the first-place New York Yankees in the AL East.
David Price is no secret weapon any longer. But he and his 100 mph fastball aren't hiding from anybody: In fact, they'll be center stage when Tampa returns to October. Read >>
"I get asked about it every now and then. That's about all the thinking I do about" the Cy Young award, Price said. "I'm set on bigger goals than that. We've got the World Series on our minds right now so that's what we're playing for."
Price (17-6) gave up two runs, one earned, lowered his ERA to 2.87 and left with a 14-2 lead. CC Sabathia, another leading Cy Young candidate, had a rough outing Tuesday in the Baltimore Orioles' 6-2 win over the Yankees. He allowed six runs in 6 1/3 innings and fell to 19-6 with a 3.14 ERA.
"Any win right now is huge," Price said. "I didn't even know we had lost three in a row. ... Every game from here on out is going to have the same amount of emphasis on it."
The Rays added two homers in the fifth, a two-run shot by Jason Bartlett and a three-run drive by Evan Longoria, then got back-to-back homers in the sixth from Dan Johnson and B.J. Upton. Boston had not allowed a homer in its previous six games.
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"When you win the way we did, it makes it a little bit more comforting in this building," Longoria said. "The lead is never comfortable, even when you're up eight or nine. To be up where we were late in the game, it's a good feeling."
Carl Crawford went 4 for 4 in just five innings, including doubles in his first three at-bats. He has 12 hits in his last 19 at-bats. He left for a pinch-hitter in the seventh as both teams made numerous lineup changes. Crawford is hitting .350 in 25 games since moving into the third spot in Tampa Bay's lineup.
"In the two-hole, he gets less opportunities," manager Joe Maddon said. "By putting him [No.] three with two guys with high on-base percentage in front of him, potentially to get on base, that increases his potential to drive in runs."
The Rays fell one homer short of their club record and scored a season high in runs. The outburst came one day after a 12-5 loss to Boston.
The Red Sox were hoping to sweep the three-game series, which ends Wednesday night. That would have put them 4½ games behind the Rays for the wild-card berth. Instead, they are 7½ back and manager Terry Francona abandoned his contingency plan to use Clay Buchholz on three days' rest if the Red Sox had won Tuesday. Instead, Tim Wakefield will start against the Rays.
"I knew very well that this was a critical game," Matsuzaka said, "so to allow what happened to happen so early in the game, I can really only apologize to my teammates and to the fans."
Boston went ahead when Marco Scutaro reached on an error by first baseman Carlos Pena, Darnell McDonald walked and Martinez doubled them home. The only other hit off Price was a single by Martinez in the third.
"Those two runs scored and that was that," Longoria said. "He did a great job settling in. He's been the anchor, he's been the stopper for us and he's been able to get us out of the rut when we need it and tonight was no different."
After tying the game, the Rays scored four runs in the fourth, six in the fifth and two in the sixth.
Matsuzaka walked the first two batters in the fourth then threw late to third when he fielded Upton's sacrifice bunt, loading the bases. He walked Bartlett, forcing in the go-ahead run. After John Jaso struck out, Zobrist singled in a run and Crawford doubled home two.
"Lack of command caught up with him and kind of caught up in a hurry," Francona said.
The Rays scored their six runs in the fifth after the first two batters were retired. Upton singled and Bartlett hit his fourth homer of the year, knocking Matsuzaka out of the game.
Dustin Richardson then walked the next two batters before fielding Crawford's ground single and firing wildly past first base, allowing a run to score. Longoria greeted reliever Robert Manuel with his 20th homer.
- Boston C Jason Varitek played for the first time since June 30 after recovering from a broken right foot. He replaced Martinez in the sixth.
- Zobrist's foul ball over the left field wall hit the sign for the Cask N' Flagon restaurant, a fan favorite across the street from Fenway Park, on a fly.
- Longoria's homer landed on the roof of a parking garage, also across Lansdowne Street.
- SS Scutaro started at 2B because right shoulder problems. An MRI on Tuesday showed inflammation in his rotator cuff.
- Pena is in an 0-for-23 slump and is batting .203.
- Boston issued its sixth bases-loaded walk in three games.