ST. PETERSBURG — David Price was something of a hot mess.
Unhappy at being pulled with two outs in the ninth, he leaned on the top rail of the dugout Thursday afternoon, his left leg a piston, his whole look uncomfortable as he watched Kyle Farnsworth finish what he couldn't, sealing the Rays' 3-1 victory over the Blue Jays.
"I wasn't nervous. I had all the faith in the world in Farnsy," Price said. "I was probably just a little mad."
Actually, he admitted, he was a lot mad. "Absolutely." Which in a way is the beauty and the curse of the Rays' 25-year-old ace.
Price had every reason to be happy, bouncing back from a rough previous outing with a dominant performance, dazzling the Jays with a fastball he had under pinpoint control, striking out 10 while allowing four singles (and no walks) in getting 26 outs.
"Unbelievable," infielder Sean Rodriguez said. "That's the Price we've known to expect and love."
But Price was more upset over being unable to get the 27th out.
"I wanted to finish it, that's for sure," said Price, who has one complete-game win in his career. "A complete game means a lot. That's what we go out there and try to do every five days. I was short today. And that's it."
Manager Joe Maddon, who got some boos from the Tropicana Field crowd of 12,682 on his way to get Price, said there really wasn't much of a decision.
Not only had Price thrown a season-high 118 pitches, the last leading to a run-scoring groundout (the inning started with a throwing error by Rodriguez), but Maddon was counting on Farnsworth retiring Yunel Escobar to end the game.
It didn't work out exactly like that. Escobar singled, bringing lefty-swinging Adam Lind to the plate as the tying run. But Farnsworth got Lind to ground out, and it all ended well as the Rays extended their run as the majors' best team since their 1-8 start, improving to 17-14 overall.
"It's the Rays' game to win," Maddon said. "It's not David's game to win."
The offense came in one spurt, a three-run third started with back-to-back doubles by Rodriguez, who played shortstop ahead of slumping Reid Brignac, and suddenly sizzling catcher John Jaso, who is hitting .471 over his past six games.
And there was some sharp defense, second baseman Ben Zobrist making a great turn on a seventh-inning double play after third baseman Evan Longoria bobbled the ball, and centerfielder B.J. Upton running down a fly ball at the wall in the eighth.
Price said he didn't dwell much on his last outing, when he allowed a career-high 12 hits and lasted only 4 1/3 innings, but it was clear from the start Thursday he was determined to make amends.
"I really thought he would," Maddon said. "He's different. He's a thoroughbred, and he's always going to bounce back."
The start before that, Price also had a shot at a complete game, but he opened the ninth by allowing three straight hits. He was more frustrated Thursday, he said, because "I felt like I was a little more dominant."
He could've been in position to finish. Rodriguez's throwing error on John McDonald's leadoff ground ball cost Price an out. Rodriguez felt so bad, he apologized to Price: "I cost him a complete game."
Price told Rodriguez not to stress about it and then gave Rodriguez a quick peck on the forehead.
Maybe he wasn't so mad after all.