MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — Pushing the Tampa Bay Rays back toward .500 might be David Price’s way of dampening trade rumors.
The All-Star left-hander pitched eight scoreless innings to win five straight starts for the first time in his major league career, and the Rays beat the Minnesota Twins 5-1 Saturday night for their fourth consecutive victory.
“We were talking about it before the game, regarding how well he’s been pitching this year and trying to compare it to his Cy Young Award-winning year,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said, referring to 2012. “I’m telling you, he’s right there right now.”
Price disagrees. He thinks he’s even better.
“I’ve said that a month-and-a-half ago, six, seven starts ago,” Price said. “I’ve never been the pitcher that I am right now. It’s awesome, it’s cool.”
Price (10-7) gave up four hits, matching his season low, walked none and struck out nine to increase his major league-leading total to 173. He got in trouble only once, giving up consecutive singles to Chris Parmelee and Eduardo Escobar in the fifth before Eduardo Nunez grounded into an inning-ending double play.
Jake McGee got two outs for his eighth save in nine chances, completing a five-hitter.
Price didn’t pitch during the All-Star game but answered questions about potential trade scenarios should the Rays fail to climb back into contention.
If Tampa Bay keeps winning, those questions will might disappear.
“Just didn’t want the All-Star break to put us into a lull, and it didn’t do it, or it hasn’t yet at least,” he said. “To come out and play the ball that we have over the past two days after the All-Star break is huge.”
Twins starter Phil Hughes (10-6) allowed five runs and 11 hits in seven innings, matching the most hits against him this season. He is 3-4 with a 5.63 ERA in his last seven starts.
“Hughes gave us an opportunity to get back in the game, but we weren’t able to do it,” Twins manager Ron Gardenhire said. “Price didn’t give us much of a chance.”
Tampa Bay took a 3-0 lead in the second on Jose Molina’s RBI single and Sean Rodriguez’s 10th home run of the season, a two-drive into the second deck in left. It was the 10th home this season off Hughes, who allowed 35 in 2012 and 24 last year.
“I felt like I could have gotten Molina out to get out of that inning,” Hughes said. “You look up and it’s 3-0 and your heart sinks a little bit because you know you’re one pitch away from getting out of that inning.”
The Rays made it 5-0 in the seventh on Molina’s RBI groundout and Rodriguez’s run-scoring single.
Minnesota scored in the ninth against Juan Carlos Oviedo on Kurt Suzuki’s one-out, RBI single.
NOTES: Twins 1B Joe Mauer took grounders before the game with coaches Joe Vavra and Paul Molitor. It was Mauer’s first baseball activity since he went on the 15-day DL on July 2 because of a strained right oblique. “He said there’s certain things he does right now that he still feels it, coughing and sneezing and things like that, definitely feels it, so he’s obviously not ready to take swings or any of that stuff,” manager Ron Gardenhire said. … Minnesota turned five groundball double plays for the seventh time in Twins history, the first since Sept. 17, 2006, at Cleveland. … Gardenhire gave a day off to OF Josh Willingham, who is 2 for 10 in his career against Price and batting .208 this season. “Willy’s fine, he’s healthy. He’s just missing his pitch right now.” … Ben Zobrist’s first-inning single off Hughes was his first hit against the former Yankees pitcher in 17 career at-bats. … Tampa Bay will try for the sweep on Sunday when it starts RHP Chris Archer (5-5), who is 2-0 and hasn’t allowed an earned run in two career starts against the Twins. Minnesota RHP Kevin Correia (5-11) is 1-2 over his last three starts despite opponents hitting .242 against him.