TORONTO — Of all the numbers flying around after Sunday's 12-0 win over the Jays, manager Joe Maddon correctly identified the 6 — representing the suddenly shrinking gap between the Rays and a playoff spot — as "the most prevalent."
But certainly the most stunning, memorable and lasting was the 14, marking the strikeouts rung up by David Price, a record for a Rays pitcher, as they finished the afternoon with a team-best 18 overall.
"That's pretty cool," Price said.
The victory was the Rays' third straight in Toronto, improving their American League-best run to 20-9 and their record to a season-high 14 games over .500 at 73-59. And combined with the Yankees' doubleheader split in Baltimore, the Rays moved to 61/2 games off the wild card, the closest they have been in more than a month.
"It's exciting," Price said. "Here we come."
Price was the primary reason for their success Sunday with his dominating seven-inning outing. He had some help from rookie outfielder Desmond Jennings, who homered on the game's first pitch and again in the second inning in his first four-hit game, plus Sean Rodriguez, who also homered, and reliever Brandon Gomes, who got a huge out in the eighth.
Also, and perhaps most dramatically, from a swirling wind at the Rogers Centre that made Price's already explosive mid 90s fastball even more ferocious — perhaps his best ever, Maddon said — by creating additional and almost unfair movement.
"Hitting is hard enough already, and what David brought made it pretty much impossible," Rays catcher John Jaso said. "It was unhittable. I would have hated to have been on their team trying to hit."
The Jays certainly didn't do very well as Price recorded his first seven outs via strikeouts (allowing a leadoff walk in the first and two-out single in the second) and fanned 10 of the first 14 Jays and 12 of 18. He had at least two strikeouts in each inning but the sixth.
"The fastball just seemed to have something extra at the end," Maddon said. "I'm just gauging by their hitters' swings. It just had something more. And the other stuff was working off it."
"He was awfully tough," said Jays bench coach Don Wakamatsu, in charge with manager John Farrell out. "He's got great movement on his ball. You can get down in the count right away."
Price said he and Jaso noticed the wind, officially listed at 12 mph, when they were walking in from the rightfield bullpen, and it blew them toward the center of the field. Once he got on the mound, they realized quickly it could work to their advantage.
"The wind is in my face, and it's just pushing against the seams. So it makes it move more," said Price, who was lifted after 111 pitches. "I've never had that much movement before."
Jaso said the combination of Price's stuff and the wind made the fastball coming out of Price's left hand look like a slider thrown by a right-hander. And they moved progressively off the plate the deeper they got into the count, mixing in a backdoor cutter on occasion.
"To a right-handed batter, you could start the fastball on the plate so it looks like a strike right out of his hand, and then it's just fading off the plate. And it's moving about 3 feet off," Jaso said. "And once they start their swing on his fastball, they can't hold it back."
The game was big enough, and the accomplishment grand enough, but Price, who turned 26 on Friday, had another reason to be happy.
Sunday was his mother Debbie's birthday, and though he sent her flowers and left her a pregame voice mail, he figured his performance made for a pretty good present. After he was done pitching, he wrote HAPPY BIRTHDAY MAMA! on his left hand, made sure it got in front of the cameras, then left word for Debbie, who missed it live, to make sure to watch SportsCenter.
"I thought that was really sweet," she said Sunday night from her Tennessee home. "He never gets too old to do something special."