ST. PETERSBURG – At the end of the night it was two names. Two big names. David Price and Evan Longoria.
One turned in a gutsy performance on the mound and the other delivered what might have been the biggest hit for the Rays this season.
Together, they teamed up for a 6-4 victory Friday night against the Red Sox in front of a vocal crowd of 23,136 at Tropicana Field.
Price struck out 10 in eight innings to tie a club record with a victory in six straight starts, and Longoria broke open a 3-3 tie with a three-run double in the seventh inning as the Rays rallied for their season-high eighth straight win.
“It is nice to hear (Price and Longoria), and it’s something moving forward we expect a lot more of that getting to the playoffs this year,” Maddon said.
Then Maddon added other names to Friday’s list of contributors.
Desmond Jennings, whose two-run homer in the fifth gave the Rays a short-lived 2-1 lead against Jon Lester and drew a walk in the seventh inning against Junichi Tazawa to keep the rally going.
And Brandon Guyer, who drew another walk off Tazawa that loaded the bases for Longoria.
And Ben Zobrist, who had four hits, including a single to left field in the seventh inning that chased home pinch-runner Cole Figueroa and tied the score at 3-3.
“This is what’s been going on,” Maddon said. “We’ve talked about we have to have everybody contribute. Everybody’s contributing right now.”
The Rays are 26-11 since June 10. That’s the best record in the majors during that stretch. They are now only three games under .500 for the first time since May 6.
The Rays have won 19 of their last 24 games, a surge helped greatly by their 14-2 mark during their last two road trips.
At the Trop, not so good.
They entered Friday’s game six games under .500 at home, a trend they need to reverse if they want to continue this run at a playoff spot.
And that might be the biggest positive from Friday’s win.
The Rays played a Red Sox team motivated to stay in the playoff race.
They were facing Lester.
The Rays ace, Price, wasn’t as dominant as he had been in his previous five starts.
And they won.
“We’ve won some games, and we’ve done some things that kind of remind us, I think, of what we’re capable of,” Longoria said. “But by no means are we where we want to be. We definitely have to continue to keep ourselves in this thing and keep reminding ourselves on a daily basis that we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Price allowed a solo homer to left field by Shane Victorino in the second inning.
The Red Sox answered the two-run homer by Jennings with two runs in their next at-bat. Dustin Pedroia doubled with one out and scored on a single up the middle by Ortiz. Singles by Jonny Gomes and Victorino scored Ortiz to give Boston a 3-2 lead.
“Lester, the way he’s been throwing the ball, you give up three runs you kind of expect to lose,” Price said. “Our offense did a great job. They battled back.”
The Rays rallied in the seventh against the Red Sox bullpen, scoring the final three runs off Tazawa, who hadn’t allowed that many runs in an appearance since Sept. 4, 2009.
Andrew Miller started the inning and hit Jose Molina with a pitch.
With one out, Red Sox manager Johen Farrell called for Tazawa.
Tazawa walked Jennings. With Molina now on second as the tying run, Maddon sent Cole Figueroa in to run for the slow-footed catcher.
The move worked as Zobrist singled to left field, sending Figueroa home to make the score 3-3.
Tazawa, who walked two batters in his previous 20 appearances combined, then walked Brandon Guyer to load the bases for Longoria.
Longoria pulled a ball down the left field and into the corner to clear the bases and put the Rays ahead 6-3.
“He’s tough, and he’s been tough against me,” Longoria said. “I was really just trying to get something I could handle. He had thrown a breaking ball earlier in the count that was way out of the zone, and I didn’t think he was going to come back to that.”
It was Longoria’s fifth extra base hit in the six games since the All-Star Break.
“It felt good. It’s definitely nice to be reminded every once in a while that you can still hit in those situations,” Longoria said. “For me, it was good, but more importantly, for the team, we’re fighting to get back in this thing. That team over there, I know that they don’t believe they’re out of it either. You’ve got to take these opportunities when we get them to try to separate ourselves a little bit from them.”
The Trop was loud Friday, the loudest it has been since Opening Day.
Rays fans booed Ortiz during each of his at-bats and went crazy when Price caught Ortiz looking at a third strike to end the first inning. It was a show of support for Price from the hometown crowd, a response from Ortiz’s comments directed at Price after Price drilled Ortiz with a pitch back in May.
“Our fans were pretty hot. I liked it,” Maddon said. “They came out with a little attitude. Very nice going, fans. Showed some attitude. We dug it.”