ANAHEIM, Calif. — A stomach flu making the rounds of the clubhouse left the Rays shorthanded Monday night, with centerfielder B.J. Upton and third baseman Evan Longoria the latest victims to be sidelined.
Fortunately for the Rays, David Price was feeling just fine.
Price delivered the dominating start they needed and Justin Ruggiano — filling in for Upton — led the offense as the Rays beat the Angels 5-1.
"That's what I try to do every time,'' Price said. "Whenever we have some of our big players out like that you know you have to pitch a little bit better. You do.''
As poorly as the Rays had been going, losing three of four in Seattle and 11 of their previous 16, and as badly as some had been feeling, they welcomed the chance to smile afterward, improving to 31-29.
As Price walked through the clubhouse before the game, several Rays joked that he needed to steer clear to avoid getting sick, and Price pulled his T-shirt over his mouth like a mask. Afterward he kidded that his strategy was to "try not to touch anybody, don't talk to too many people and stay away from everybody.''
He was all business, though, on the mound, holding the Angels to three hits through the first seven innings, then two more to open the eighth. Cesar Ramos, who played collegiately at nearby Long Beach State, got them out of the eighth-innign mess, and Kyle Farnsworth worked another perfect ninth.
Price, who struck out seven and didn't walk any, improved to 7-5 and lowered his ERA to 3.35.
"David was very good,'' manager Joe Maddon said. "Really mixed his pitches well, didn't just rely on his fastball. He had great command. His command has been really good, that's the difference.''
Ruggiano, making just his fourth start since his May 20 promotion, singled in a run in the first and hit a two-run homer in the sixth, then later made a daring running catch at the wall, narrowly avoiding a collision with Sam Fuld. "The Flying Wallenda act,'' Maddon said.
Ruggiano wasn't in the original lineup so he went to the weight room for an extensive pregame workout, then found out he was playing and ended up with a career-best matching three RBI. "I'll take it,'' he said.
Said Maddon: "He does a lot of good things on the baseball field. That doesn't surprise me at all what he did tonight.''
Matt Joyce knocked in a pair of runs to take over the team RBI lead with 34 and Reid Brignac, who'd had five hits in the previous five weeks, had a season-high three.
The Rays took a 2-0 lead in the first, taking advantage of some Angels sloppiness. Johnny Damon singled, stole second, went to third on Ben Zobrist's bunt and scored on Joyce's sac fly. Then ex-Angel Casey Kotchman reached on an error, went to second on John Jaso's single and scored on Ruggiano's single. The Rays doubled the lead in the sixth on Ruggiano's homer — "a pretty big play,'' Maddon said — and Joyce singled in Brignac in the seventh.
The flu has been going around the players for most of the past week, but it hit hard Monday. Upton and Longoria had it the worst, with Sean Rodriguez, Adam Russell and Brignac also feeling it.
"We have a bunch of sick people,'' Maddon said. "We've got to be careful. There's a whole bunch of guys not doing too well.''
The symptoms include throwing up and, well, other issues and seem to last 24 to 48 hours. "I've had both," Upton said.
Upton wanted to play, but he looked so bad that Maddon decided to keep him out of the lineup, hoping he might be available later in the game, and should be back tonight.
Longoria was in the original lineup but was scratched about 30 minutes before game time and replaced by Sean Rodriguez. Kotchman had it during the weekend.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]