ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) — As long as David Price stays healthy and keeps pitching like an All-Star, the Tampa Bay Rays are confident they can secure a wild-card berth — or even overtake the Yankees in the AL East.
Price pitched three-hit ball over seven innings for his AL-leading 16th victory and Tampa Bay got home runs from Evan Longoria, B.J. Upton and Ben Zobrist in a 7-0 victory over the Los Angeles Angels on Thursday night.
Price is 7-0 with a 2.21 ERA in his last nine road starts and 8-0 with a 1.72 ERA in his last 11 starts overall since a 9-1 home loss to the New York Mets on June 13.
“I feel like I’ve been throwing the ball well,” Price said. “I’ve gotten a lot of runs early, and that makes my job a lot easier. I can go out there and attack the zone, make people put the ball in play and get early outs so I can go deep into games. I’m not worrying about any individual numbers or anything like that. I’m just trying to help us every five days to get to the postseason, and we’ll take it from there.”
Burke Badenhop and Wade Davis each pitched one inning in the Rays’ third straight shutout against the Angels. The Halos have gone 32 consecutive innings without scoring against a staff that leads the AL in ERA, opponents’ batting average and strikeouts.
Price (16-4) struck out eight, walked two and lowered his ERA to 2.39, third in the AL behind the Angels’ Jered Weaver and Detroit’s Justin Verlander. The left-hander allowed only two runners to third base, striking out Chris Iannetta to end the fifth inning and fanning Vernon Wells to escape the seventh.
“My game plan doesn’t change,” Price said. “I was trying to attack them the same way I would if it was a 1-0 game or a zero-zero game, so my game plan doesn’t change no matter how many runs we score or give up. With that offense they have over there, all it takes is one bad inning and they’re right back in the game.”
Dan Haren (8-10) threw 61 pitches in 3 1-3 innings and gave up five runs and seven hits, including Zobrist’s 13th homer and Upton’s 14th. The three-time All-Star has surrendered 22 homers in his 22 starts, two more than he gave up last season in 34 starts.
Haren has allowed at least one home run in 10 consecutive starts and 15 total during a streak that began when Colorado hit four against him on June 9 at Coors Field — all solo shots in Haren’s 11-5 victory. The last time the right-hander didn’t give up a homer was June 3 against Texas.
“I’m leaving just too many mistakes up in the zone, and that’s usually what homers come from,” Haren said. “I’ve been able to keep them mostly to solo home runs, and those usually won’t kill you. But the big innings will. I’ll have a couple of good starts, and then I’ll disappear for a while. So I have to be more consistent and give the team a better chance to win.”
Tampa Bay, which lost 1-0 at Seattle on Wednesday as Felix Hernandez pitched a perfect game, had a streak of 34 consecutive batters retired before Zobrist’s one-out homer in the second.
“You cannot permit yesterday to cause a hangover. I really don’t believe in that stuff,” manager Joe Maddon said. “The thing I love about our group is that we don’t let it both us, and we shouldn’t. So when David pitches a game like this, he permits you to get it going offensively. I was really proud of our boys tonight after yesterday’s difficult game.”
Zobrist drove a 2-2 pitch into the first row of seats above the 18-foot wall in right-center, and Angels manager Mike Scioscia came out to argue that a fan interfered with the ball. But the ruling by second base ump Al Porter stood after a video review.
Upton triggered a four-run fourth with a drive into the left-field bullpen, one of six hits Haren surrendered during the inning. Jeff Keppinger hit a two-run single and Ryan Roberts made it 5-0 with a sacrifice fly before Jose Molina chased Haren with a two-out single. It was the second straight start in which the three-time All-Star failed to get through the fourth.
Longoria increased the margin to 7-0 in the fifth with his fifth homer of the season and first in 115 at-bats since coming off the disabled list on Aug. 7. The Rays are 8-2 since his return after going 41-44 while he was sidelined with a partially torn left hamstring.
“Just having him in the lineup is a big factor for us because that other pitcher know where he’s at — whether he’s on deck or in the hole. And that helps everybody else,” Price said. “The guys that are hitting behind him are going to have more opportunities to drive in runs, and the guys hitting in front of him and going to get more good pitches to hit and get him up with runners on base.”
NOTES: The last two times a pitcher threw a perfect game against the Rays, they responded with an 8-4 stretch following Mark Buehrle’s in 2009, and an 8-2 stretch following Dallas Braden’s in 2010. … Weaver gets a chance to tie Price again for the league lead in wins on Friday night when he opposes James Shields. … Haren’s only other outing against the Rays this season was on July 27, when he beat them 3-1 at Anaheim. … Tampa Bay’s starting pitchers are 11-2 with a 1.57 ERA over the team’s last 18 games. … The Rays came in leading the majors leading the AL with a .233 opponents’ batting average, after doing so in each of the previous two seasons. The last club to accomplish a three-peat in that department was Detroit (1983-85). … Tampa Bay’s bullpen has a 0.88 ERA over the last 26 games, compared to a 5.90 ERA by the Angels’ bullpen during that same stretch. … Maddon, who was Scioscia’s former bench coach in Anaheim, has 559 wins with the Rays during the regular season — 41 more than the franchise had in its eight seasons before he got the job in 2006.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.