ST. PETERSBURG - First came the team meeting, called before Friday's game by Carlos Peña, who does such things when he notices the energy, the confidence dragging. And the Tampa Bay Rays have been playing without a whole lot of energy and confidence lately.
That's kind of a dicey move when you're going to face Detroit's Justin Verlander, who only won the American League Cy Young and MVP awards last season, but what the heck.
So, naturally, the Rays played with energy and confidence and beat Verlander and the Tigers 4-2 before 19,557 fans at Tropicana Field to snap a four-game losing streak and pick up a game on the first-place Yankees.
"More energy," Rays manager Joe Maddon said, summing up the night. "More energy in the dugout."
Desmond Jennings hit two home runs and finished a running catch in foul territory with a dive over the short fence and into 162 Landing.
David Price gave the Rays seven strong innings before leaving with tightness in his lower back that he said won't prevent him to miss his next start.
"I'll be pitching in five days," Price said.
The Rays turned three inning-ending double plays.
Ben Zobrist homered. Fernando Rodney earned his 22nd save.
It was a good night for the Rays.
"Every win is big, but losing four straight and coming out and playing good and hitting the ball against Verlander gives us confidence and makes us feel good about ourselves again," Jennings said.
Before the game, Peña compared the Rays' recent struggles to that of a boxer who gets knocked around early in the round. The boxer can't ring the bell to stop the pounding, he has to figure out away to stay on his feet for the next two minutes or so, find away to absorb the blows and figure out a way to fight back.
"It may not always be (punching) harder," Peña said. "It may be smarter. We have to be smarter. We've been punched around the ring a little bit, but we're still on our feet."
Against one of the game's top pitchers, the Rays found a way to survive. The formula was familiar — a little defense and a little hustle.
Price helped himself out in the first inning when he reached for a comebacker from Miguel Cabrera and started an inning-ending double play, the first of three the Rays would turn in the first five innings.
"Defensively, it looked more normal," Maddon said.
Peña reached on an infield single with one out in the bottom of the first, then practice what he preached by racing to third base on B.J. Upton's single to left field. Peña saw Tigers left fielder Quintin Berry take his eye off Peña, and he didn't stop running until he reached third base.
"That was absolutely a big play in the game," Maddon said.
Upton stole second to put runners on second and third with one out. The Rays turned the threat into one run, which scored when Tigers first baseman Prince Fielder robbed Luke Scott of a double.
After that, it was the Jennings and Price Show, as Jennings became the fourth player to hit two home runs off Verlander in the same game.
"I felt like I haven't got a hit in a month," Jennings said. "It's Verlander, he throws his fastball some, you know he's going to throw it. I got into fastball counts and put good swings on the ball."
And Price made the Rays energy count by out-performing yet another former Cy Young winner.
Price is 7-1 with a 2.24 ERA in 11 starts against former Cy Young winners.
"It all starts with David," Maddon said. "More energy, but good starting pitching always sets that up."
NOTEWORTHY: The Rays optioned RHP Brandon Gomes and LHP Cesar Ramos to Durham after the game.
Tampa Bay Rays