SEATTLE — The Rays were trying a lot of things to find a way out of their funk, manager Joe Maddon on Tuesday changing the look with a shaken-up lineup and the smell — yes, the smell — with an assortment of old-man colognes and after-shaves for the players and staff to sample.
But really it was the sight of an old friend – or, in a way, two actually - that resulted in a dramatic 2-1 comeback victory over the Mariners they hope proves to be the moment they've been seeking.
"It takes this kind of win sometimes to get you back on the path,'' Maddon said. "And what I mean by that is a really difficult one.''
"Hopefully this is something that'll get us going,'' outfielder Matt Joyce said. "It's something we needed.''
The two old friends?
One was Fernando Rodney, their closer the past two seasons who wanted to return but ended up signing with the Mariners. Summoned to close out a 1-0 after a dazzling eight-inning start by Hisashi Iwakuma, Rodney failed miserably.
The Rays tied the game on a leadoff homer by David DeJesus, then rapped three consecutive two-out hits, the last by Joyce, to take the lead and chase Rodney, who was booed heavily by the sparse Seattle crowd.
"I don't think there was added satisfaction, it's just nice to come from behind against a really good closer like Rodney,'' Joyce said.
The other was their own David Price, who rediscovered the 2012 Cy Young form he had been looking for in a dominant complete-game performance, scattering six hits and striking out 12 with no walks over 109 pitches.
"I was a completely different pitcher tonight on the mound, essentially with everything,'' Price said. "I was back to my old self.''
Price was determined, talking with Chris Archer on Monday about his goal, then sitting with him Tuesday afternoon and watching video highlights from his 20-win season.
"I told him that was what I was going to do (Tuesday night), and I was able to do it,'' Price said.
"That's a perfect example of putting something on your mind and fully executing it,'' Archer said.
Price accessorized the transformation, deciding that for his first start in Seattle, and not having won in "forever" – actually since April 22 – he would wear Archer's striped socks and his pants high to his knees, borrowing a pair from Josh Lueke cut that way. Also, some Aqua Velva blue after-shave "like my dad.''
Price was dazzling all night, working primarily off his fastball, getting out of whatever trouble he got into, allowing his lone run in the first when leadoff man James Jones doubled and came around on two groundouts.
"He was so sharp,'' Maddon said. "Just watching his face, this guy was totally locked in tonight making great pitches. He picked us up big-time. It was a great, great effort on his part.''
Very much similar, Maddon said, to 2012.
"That was totally like that,'' he said. "His focus was outstanding, the way he handled every moment.''
"He was unbelievable,'' Joyce said. "It was really nice to see him throwing harder, just really putting everything where he wanted and being himself. I don't want to say that's what we expect of him, but that's what he's capable of, and we needed it tonight.''
Added DeJesus: "It's great to see him back to being David again.''
As good as Price was, the Rays were still down 1-0 with Rodney, who shared the American League lead with 11 saves (in 12 chances) on the mound. Iwakuma, in his third start off the DL, said he had had enough after 97 pitches over eight innings.
Down 0-2 to start, DeJesus battled back to 2-2 then lofted a hanging changeup over the rightfield wall.
"That shifted some momentum finally back toward us,'' Maddon said. "And that made all the difference in the world.''
Rodney struck out Evan Longoria and got Ben Zobrist on a pop-out, but the Rays weren't done.
James Loney, quickly down 0-2, battled through five more pitches and then singled to center in the next biggest at-bat of the inning. Desmond Jennings singled. And then Joyce did too, dropping a ball into right-center to score pinch-runner Sean Rodriguez with the go-ahead run.
"You just keep fighting, keep grinding it out,'' Joyce said.
After Rodney walked Yunel Escobar to load the bases, he was pulled from the game and serenaded with boos.
"The fans, if you're not good, they boo you. That's part of the game,'' Rodney said. "I have to let it go. I understand that part. The fans boo because they're mad. They want to win. That's why you bring in a closer, to close the game. That didn't happen tonight.''
Rodney, who wanted to return to the Rays but didn't get an offer, said there were no special feelings.
"I was normal, same person,'' he said. "I didn't try to do anything different. I think I made good pitches tonight. I missed one, and they tied the game. The last few hitters, I made good pitches. Two hit ground balls and a pop-up to center field. We couldn't get outs. That's the ballgame.''
Not quite, as the Rays still had to get the Mariners out. Price stayed warm during the long top of the ninth by going up the clubhouse and throwing a ball against the wall, and Maddon had no plans of pulling him, even though closer Grant Balfour was warming. "He wasn't coming out,'' Maddon said.
Price got Robinson Cano looking at strike three for the first out, Corey Hart to fly out and Justin Smoak swinging at strike three, on an outside fastball very much like the last one in the highlights he and Archer had watched.
"We needed a win, period,'' Price said. "Whether it was a blowout, or a game like that where we had to battle back and kind of win late. That was good. … Hopefully we can just get it going.''
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.