DETROIT — All-Star David Price was still certainly good enough, though not great. The bats were again thumping. Plays were being made all over the field.
And as the Rays relished their 7-3 victory over the Tigers and packed for home early this morning to cap what looked to be a hazardous road trip to Baltimore, New York and Detroit at a stellar 9-2, they seemed convinced they are going places.
"I think we're one of the best teams in the American League, period," manager Joe Maddon proclaimed. "I thought that from Day 1. Our record has not reflected it. We did not play that way. But we are now."
There is still a long way to go, of course, as they are 8½ games out of first place in the American League East and living with the threat that Price and others may be traded.
But they are making progress, winning 10 of 12 and 17 of 25 in improving to 41-50, and moving past Boston to escape last place for the first time since May 28.
"You've got to be impressed with our guys," Maddon said. "We're playing at a very high level emotionally and mentally right now. We're not going anywhere. We're in it for the long haul. I know the math does not look appropriate. But I was not very good at math."
Price, named to his fourth All-Star team earlier Sunday, was not as sharp as he had been recently, but, thanks to the defense behind him, still came within one out of a complete game. He ended up allowing the three runs on seven hits (including his AL most 18th and 19th homers), striking out six and walking three while throwing 107 pitches.
"I got 26 outs and I would say at least 15 of them were hit absolutely on the screws," Price said. "They hit me well. They deserved a better fate and I definitely deserved a worse one, but I'll take it."
Maddon said Price's velocity and location were not his finest. Price said he felt a bit "out of synch'' from the start. "He didn't have his best stuff, but he got through it,'' Maddon said.
Speculation about a possible trade follows Price to the mound for every start, though the Rays' improved play is likely to at least delay a decision, with team officials expected to use the upcoming All-Star break to assess their position.
Price's name came up in talks with the A's before they made a deal Friday to get Jeff Samardzjia and Jason Hammel from the Cubs, and teams with scouts at Sunday's game included the Angels, Blue Jays, Brewers, Dodgers, Giants and Mariners.
The hitters, meanwhile, racked up 19 hits, one off their season high, ambushing Detroit starter Rick Porcello, who came in with a 25-inning scoreless streak, for three runs nine pitches into the first and piling on from there. Ben Zobrist and Sean Rodriguez had four each, while Matt Joyce and Desmond Jennings.
In the first, Jennings doubled, Zobrist singled and Joyce — after an instant replay review — was ruled to have homered. They got another in the fifth when Zobrist singled, moved up on Joyce's walk and scored on an Evan Longoria single. Then they got three in the sixth thanks to some hustle by Kevin Kiermaier and muscle by Jennings. Kiermaier beat out the back end of what would have been an inning-ending double play, allowing Rodriguez, who had singled and moved to third on Jose Molina's single, to score. Then Jennings launched an arcing homer to left to make it 7-1.
After not scoring more than four in 19 straight games against Detroit, the Rays did it three games in a row, and they tallied 56 runs over the 11 games.
"I don't know if anybody really expected us to hit it the way we are right now," Price said. "It's really impressive, it is. If they can keep it up, it'd be sweet."
And they flashed leather all over the field, Jennings making a pair of highlight reel plays in center, Zobrist, Evan Longoria and James Loney on the infield.
"We played tremendous defense tonight,' Maddon said. "That was so Rays-like defensively. ... There was a ton of really good plays today. And that's a big part of us being really good is when we do that."
Price said they're finally starting to look the way they're supposed to. "This is the type of baseball we expected to play,' he said.
Maddon, too. "You go through Baltimore, New York and Detroit right now with the quality of those three teams and come out of it 9-2 based on where we had been earlier in the season, that speaks a lot to the resiliency of our players."
Contact Marc Topkin at [email protected] Follow @TBTimes_Rays.