ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – This time David Price denied the Pittsburgh Pirates their first series sweep of the season.
Price struck out 11, becoming the first pitcher in 10 years to fan at least 10 in five straight starts, and the Tampa Bay Rays beat the Pirates, 5-1, Wednesday.
“It’s always fun to watch pitchers command the baseball,” Pittsburgh manager Clint Hurdle said. “I’m sure it’s been said before, Price was right today. His 107th pitch was 97 (mph), so he was on his game. He’s been one of the best for a while.”
The Pirates failed for the seventh time to finish off a series sweep of at least three games this season. Pittsburgh hasn’t swept a series since their finale last season against Cincinnati.
Price (6-7) gave up five hits and one walk in 8 1/3 innings, leaving the game after Andrew McCutchen’s home run in the ninth.
The last pitcher with five straight starts of 10 strikeouts was Minnesota’s Johan Santana from June 20-July 11, 2004.
With speculation growing Price will be dealt before the trade deadline, the left-hander tipped his cap and waved to the crowd when he was pulled from the game.
“These fans are awesome, they support us very well,” Price said. “If this is my last game here, thanks.”
Tampa Bay will start an 11-game trip Friday night at Baltimore.
Ben Zobrist’s RBI triple highlighted the Rays’ three-run first inning off Charlie Morton. Desmond Jennings and James Loney had singles, and Kevin Kiermaier drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.
Morton (4-9) struck out a career-high 11 in seven innings, giving up four hits.
“Charlie battled back,” Hurdle said. “The first inning, we’ve seen a couple outings, seems to be a little over amped. After the first inning, he just repeated his delivery. He pitched a very effective ballgame.”
Price and Morton are the second pair of pitchers to have double-digit strikeouts in the same game this year. Miami’s Jose Fernandez (14) and Atlanta’s Alex Wood (11) did it April 22.
Zobrist and Loney each had two hits, and Kiermaier drove in two runs for the Rays, who won for only the ninth time in 29 games.
Price was backed by defensive plays that included Evan Longoria landing in the first row of the stands after making a running catch of a popup, and center fielder Jennings running down Neil Walker’s 400-foot line drive at the wall with two men on base during the seventh.
“Limited opportunities to make something happen,” Hurdle said. “Jennings ran the ball down in center.”
Notes: McCutchen’s homer was his 12th of the season and eighth this month. … RHP Gerrit Cole, out since June 4 with right shoulder fatigue, will return to the Pirates rotation Saturday against the New York Mets. … Pittsburgh OF Sterling Marte, who left Tuesday night’s game after being injured on a stolen base attempt, passed a concussion test but didn’t play. … Former Pittsburgh closer Jason Grilli struggled, allowing two runs and four hits, and getting just two outs in the eighth. … The Pirates open a four-game series at home against the Mets tonight. RHP Vance Worley (1-0) and RHP Daisuke Matsuzaka (3-1) are the scheduled starters.