BOSTON - The Boston Red Sox celebrated the 2004 World Series championship team Tuesday night Fenway Park. The Tampa Bay Rays celebrated another one-game winning streak.
That was the goal Rays manager Joe Maddon set for his team last week when the possibility of postseason baseball looked bleak, and that's the formula which has allowed the Rays to creep back into the playoff picture.
Tuesday's 5-2 win enabled the Rays to move to within 3 1/2 games of the American League wild card-leading Baltimore Orioles. The Rays end the season with three games against the Orioles at Tropicana Field.
They remain three games behind Oakland, which holds the second wild card spot and won at Texas on Tuesday.
“We are 1-0 on Tuesday. We want to go 1-0 (tonight),” Maddon said. “That's our immediate short-term goal.”
David Price led the way with his second complete-game victory of the season. He struck out a season-high 13 and held the Red Sox to one run over the final six innings. Price tied Jered Weaver of the Angels for the American League lead in wins with 19.
He also added another few lines to his 2012 American League Cy Young Award resume by passing the 200 plateau in both innings pitched (204) and strikeouts (201).
Price and James Shields (202) are now just the seventh set of teammates to strikeout at least 200 batters in consecutive seasons.
When asked what was the most significant number from the night – win total, strikeout total, innings pitched total – Price answered, “The win is first and foremost.”
And by that Price meant the Rays' sixth consecutive win.
“We feel good,” he said. “Nobody's hit the panic button in this locker room. (Maddon and the coaching staff) keep us one game at a time in that mindset, and that's what we do a good job of.
"There's a good feeling in this locker room before games. We're playing well right now, and we want to keep it going.”
The winning streak began Sept. 19 with a 13-3 victory against the Red Sox at the Trop. Maddon said he noticed a change in his team that night that has remained.
“It's a different focus. It's just a different first inning,” Maddon said. “They're nice and loose, but then there's a nice business-like focus when the game begins. It's a nice combination.”
Tuesday's win was a nice combination of Price, solid defense and the trusty timely hit.
“That's who we got to be. That's who we are,” Maddon said. “To play that level of defense and pitch and get some timely hits, that's a formula we tried in the past and it worked.”
Jeff Keppinger put the Rays in front 3-0 in the second inning with his career-high eighth home run of the season. A single by Jose Molina in the sixth inning scored two runners and made it a 5-2 lead.
Molina injured his right quad while running to first base and left the game. Maddon said they will know more about the extent of the injury this afternoon.
Meanwhile, Price settled down after a rough second and third inning when he allowed three hits and a run in each. The Red Sox run in the third inning came home on a balk.
After that inning, Molina and Price conferred and decided it was time Price stop throwing his cutter and rely on his fastball, changeup and curveball.
“I felt like their approach to me in the second and third inning was very good. I felt they were trying to hit all fastballs to right field, and that put them on time with the cutter,” Price said. “Granted it was catching too much plate, too much middle away, still it's not easy to hit, I've been there. The swings they put on me were very good swings.
"Molina came and talked to me after the third inning and we switched some stuff up and gave them some different looks. It was pretty smart.”
Said Maddon, “I think he repackaged what he was doing. He put the cutter pretty much in his back pocket and pitched fastball, curveball, changeup and it was an entirely different reaction from their team regarding the say they swung the bat. It was entirely different.”
The winning streak, coupled with the struggles of the Oakland A's, who have won just three times on their current 10-game road trip, has reached a point where the Rays expect to be playing in the postseason.
“It's real to me right now,” Maddon said. “I'd like to believe the players believe it's real. Listen, we just keep going 1-0 we're in pretty good shape. You got to keep applying pressure. We talk about (the movie) ‘Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid' in the past, (and the famous line) ‘Who are those guys?'
"We got to be those guys to somebody.”
Tampa Bay Rays
Price goes distance as Rays win sixth straight