ST. PETERSBURG — In the Rays' opening game of a pivotal home series against a fierce, bitter rival, manager Joe Maddon liked the fire he saw with ace David Price and slugger Evan Longoria leading the charge in Friday night's 6-4 comeback win over Boston.
"A little bit of the swagger is back," Maddon said.
The Rays (50-53) had a reason to regain confidence after securing their eighth win in a row — tied for the second-longest streak in club history — and doing so after falling behind against one of the league's hottest pitchers.
Tempers had apparently cooled between the teams after their past two run-ins. The benches cleared during Boston's last trip to Tropicana Field in May, and David Ortiz declared "war" on Price after Price hit him with a fastball later that month.
The only fireworks this time were on the field — although Ortiz drew a chorus of boos from an announced crowd of 23,136 at Tropicana Field.
Shane Victorino hit a solo home run off of Price in the second. After Price struck out Ortiz on three pitches to end the first, Ortiz knocked an RBI single to tie the score at 2 in the sixth and soon after scored the go-ahead run.
"He's a tough out," Price said.
So, it turned out, were three of the Rays' biggest stars.
Desmond Jennings blasted a two-run home run in the fifth off of Boston lefty Jon Lester. His ninth of the year was the first Lester had allowed in 57 innings. Lester had allowed only one earned run over his previous four starts but gave up two to the Rays.
"He's really been a catalyst," Maddon said of Jennings. "He's playing, probably, as good as I've seen Dez play in the big-league level right now."
Ben Zobrist broke out of a 1-for-16 slump with a 4-for-4 night capped by a tying single in the seventh.
And after a Brandon Guyer walk loaded the bases, Longoria came up with one of the Rays' biggest at-bats of the year. He worked a 2-and-2 count against Junichi Tazawa, fouling off two pitches.
"In battle mode," Longoria said.
On his next swing, Longoria rocketed a bases-clearing double down the leftfield line. It was his fifth extra-base hit over his past six games. He had only two over his previous 18.
Longoria's hit helped Price tie the club record with six consecutive wins. Although Boston's eight hits were the most Price had allowed since June 4, he struck out 10 batters and lasted at least eight innings for the eighth time over his past nine starts.
And he did it with scouts from at least a dozen teams in the stands, getting one more look at one of the game's biggest names heading into Thursday's nonwaiver trade deadline.
"Nobody wants to lose him around here, so let's just keep on winning and keep him here," Maddon said. "Sounds like a nice equation."
Contact Matt Baker at [email protected] Follow @MBakerTBTimes.