ST. PETERSBURG — There was one brief moment Friday when David Price wasn't in complete command of the game.
That would be when the barrel of Grady Sizemore's broken bat helicoptered at him, striking him on the back of the head just before he dived face-first to the ground.
"Definitely scary," Price said. "Luckily I didn't get hurt. My dad told me I had a hard head, and I definitely believe him now."
Otherwise, Price was in control. And so were the Rays, losers of five of their past six, in beating the American League-leading Indians 5-0.
For seven innings, and that one scary moment, Price was dominant, striking out a career-high 12, one off the team record, and allowing only four hits.
He got all the help he needed early, as Casey Kotchman and Sam Fuld hit two-run homers in the second, then another run on the third hit of the night by Matt Joyce, who raised his MLB-leading average to .377. Plus, Fuld and shortstop Sean Rodriguez made dazzling plays in the field.
The victory, before 16,800 at Tropicana Field, was much needed by the Rays (27-23), as they opened a six-game home-stand against the first-place Indians and Rangers, before heading back out on an 11-game, four-city, country-crossing trip.
"A great way to start the homestand," Fuld said.
Price hadn't won either of his past two starts, and he wasn't happy about it. Friday there didn't seem to be any question, as he mixed his fastball, curve and what he called his best changeup of the season.
"That felt good," he said. "I needed that to get back on track."
His only real test came in the sixth, when he allowed back-to-back singles with one out, then struck out Shelly Duncan and Matt LaPorta.
"More like himself," manager Joe Maddon said.
The start of the seventh proved to be the most concerning moment, as Sizemore's bat broke as he hit a ground ball to second. The black barrel broke off and spun furiously as it headed toward the mound, and Price said he didn't really see it coming.
"I got out of the way right there at the end," he said. "I thought it was coming at me, then I lost it so I just tried to get out of the way."
There was definitely contact on the back of his head, he said, but no cut, bruise or damage.
"It got me square, so that's probably why it didn't hurt," Price said.
Maddon said the lack of injury was just good luck and renewed his years-long call for maple bats to be banned.
"It could have impaled (Price)," Maddon said. "It could have hit him in the face, hit him in the eye. There's so many things that could happen."
Price has had previous broken-bat incidents, and said he was more scared in the March 2010 game when Adrian Beltre's bat came at his face and cut the hand he put up in defense.
Friday, he finished the inning, with a walk and two strikeouts, and was finished for the night, joking afterward about how he was one shy of the strikeout record just tied by James Shields.
"(Pitching coach Jim) Hickey said Shields told Joe to pull me so I wouldn't beat it," Price said.