ST. PETERSBURG — With the Rays in a bit of slump this week, they will turn to ace David Price to help stop the slide. Tampa Bay has lost four of five heading into a 10-game trip to the West Coast, with the first stop in Oakland to face the team which sits one-half game behind the Rays in the wild-card standings. Tampa Bay bumped back Price’s scheduled start Thursday one day in order to set up the rotation to allow Price to start the series against Oakland, and potentially the first of a three-game series against Boston when the Rays return home Sept. 10. Since Price returned from a strained triceps muscle that landed him on the disabled list, the reigning Cy Young Award winner has posted a 7-1 record with a 1.97 ERA, issuing only six walks in 82ß innings.
Getting the ball in the first game of a series is a moment Price relishes. “It’s always big. The first game of every series is always a tone setter,’’ Price said. “Whenever you are playing a three-game set, that first game is huge, it takes a lot of pressure off of everybody. You obviously want to be able to win a series and if you can do that on the first two days you can think about a sweep, but winning that first game of a three-game set is very big.’’ Strong spot start RHP Jake Odorizzi gave the Rays what they needed Thursday, pitching five solid innings in his first game with the club since a start at Fenway Park on June 18. One of the pieces acquired in the trade with Kansas City during the offseason, the 23-year-old made his fourth start of the season and allowed just one run on four hits but took the loss. “It could have been a little better but effective with what I got done,’’ Odorizzi said of his performance. “Overall it went well. I got out of some jams and the defense played awesome behind me. You can’t be mad when something like that happens.’’ Manager Joe Maddon said Odorizzi provided exactly what was needed. “We were in position to win (and) give Jake Odorizzi credit, he pitched really, really well,’’ Maddon said. “To keep them to two runs is really important on our part. We normally win a game like that, especially at home. I was pleased with the pitching.’’ Moore rehabs LHP Matt Moore, out for the past month with elbow soreness, made a rehab start for Triple-A Durham on Thursday against Gwinnett in his final step before returning to the rotation. Moore allowed three runs on three hits in a 19-pitch first inning and gave up at least a hit in every inning he pitched. His night ended after four innings and 74 pitches, allowing four runs on eight hits, walking two and striking out a pair. Maddon said Moore will join the team in Oakland. Before the injury landed him on the disabled list July 31, Moore posted a 14-3 record with a 3.41 ERA in 121ß innings. He is scheduled to start Tuesday’s game in Anaheim against the Angels. College road trip The theme for the extended road trip saw members of the Rays’ traveling party wear the jersey or shirt of a college football team in recognition of the season getting underway. After the game, Maddon was wearing a No. 12 Lafayette jersey of his alma mater. “The folks up at Lafayette sent it down,’’ Maddon said. “It’s not the exact jersey that I wore in 1972, but it’s pretty close.’’ RHP Fernando Rodney arrived at the clubhouse wearing a University of Florida jersey along with matching orange tennis shoes, while equipment manager Chris Westmoreland had a full Florida uniform. Price, who attended Vanderbilt, showed off his full Commodore football garb during a bullpen session Wednesday complete with the helmet, which did not go unnoticed by the school. “Coach (James) Franklin was really happy. He was pumped up,’’ Price said. “This is a big time for Vanderbilt football right now. Everybody is very excited for it and the job that coach Franklin has done out there. They are really making it a place where people want to go. “They had a top-20 recruiting class and that doesn’t really happen too often, so it’s good to see how it’s turning around.” Need to know Single-A Bowling Green clinched its third consecutive playoff berth Wednesday night. Game 1 against either Fort Wayne or South Bend is Wednesday. ... Former “American Idol” winner Scotty McCreery threw out the ceremonial first pitch, which coincided with a donation by the country music artist of $5,000 to the Rays Baseball Foundation. ... The Rays were shut out for the fourth time at home this season. ... After starting the season 23-11 against left-handed pitchers, Tampa Bay is 2-9 in the past 11.