ST. PETERSBURG — For a Rays team looking for any sign that it can make a second-half push, Sunday's 3-0 win over Toronto gave a glimpse of what might be possible after the All-Star break.
The offense was opportunistic off former Cy Young winner R.A. Dickey.
The defense was solid, turning two double plays for the first time in almost a month.
And starter David Price was dominant again in his latest and possibly last start at Tropicana Field as a Ray. His eight shutout innings led the Rays (44-53) to the series win and the 11th victory in their past 15 games.
"Maybe the best game he's pitched," manager Joe Maddon said.
Especially given the circumstances.
The Price trade rumors haven't quieted much. His fastball wasn't as sharp as usual, which didn't help a slow start.
And then there was the illness that pushed his start back a day. Price said he wasn't sure he would be ready to go until he watched Saturday's game from home and saw the Rays explode for six runs in the sixth inning.
"In that big inning when we scored six, it really pumped me up," said Price, who pounded fluids between innings to stay fresh. "I was mad I wasn't pitching (Saturday) with all those runs."
Instead, his support came slowly, starting with Logan Forsythe's two-out RBI single in the second.
Yunel Escobar's first steal of the season eventually led to the Rays' second run, on Escobar's replay-aided slide into home. Evan Longoria added a sacrifice fly, as the Rays scored all three of their runs with two outs.
That efficient offense set Price up for his ninth win of the season. With his fastball a little off, Price relied more on a changeup that pitching coach Jim Hickey said was as good as he had ever seen it.
"With that combination, everything was working," Maddon said.
Price said he was too amped up early and had to work out of a two-on, one-out jam in the first. He needed 23 pitches to get out of that inning but only 89 after that.
Price scattered five hits and a walk in his team's 10th shutout of the season. Although he had only five strikeouts, he enters the All-Star break with 164 — the most of any pitcher at this point in the past 12 years.
"He's one of the best in the business," Blue Jays manager John Gibbons said. "That's why everybody wants him."
Price and the Tropicana Field crowd of 17,187 seemed to recognize that reality, too.
When Price left the game after giving up a leadoff single in the ninth inning, he received another standing ovation. He tipped his cap and lingered outside the dugout for a long round of postgame hugs.
"He's just proving the kind of pitcher that he is right now — to everybody," outfielder Ben Zobrist said. "To our organization and to every other organization."
Contact Matt Baker at [email protected] Follow @MBakerTBTimes.