NEW YORK — Rays manager Joe Maddon said David Price was "dripping wet" coming off the mound in the fifth inning.
"He lasted five innings," Maddon said. "But it was almost like he threw a complete game."
The left-hander had reason to be exhausted after a 38-pitch fifth inning in which he retired Alex Rodriguez and Robinson Cano with the bases loaded, lifting the Rays to a 7-3 win over the Yankees on Thursday.
"That was the game," Maddon said.
The victory, Price's American League-leading eighth of the season, helped Tampa Bay (32-25) avoid a sweep and get back into a first-place tie with Baltimore in the East.
In the game's most pressure-packed moment, Price stuck to his guns after walking two to load the bases with one out.
Price got ahead of Rodriguez 1-and-2 with curveballs and called catcher Jose Lobaton to the mound to say he was going to keep throwing them. Rodriguez fouled off five pitches as he ran the count full. And with the Yankee Stadium crowd of 39,891 on its feet, Price got him swinging on another hook — pitch No. 11 of the at-bat.
"That's the best my curveball has been all year," Price said, "and I wanted to stick with it."
Price then got Cano to ground out to second to thwart the threat, pounding his glove as he walked off the mound.
"David manned up," infielder Drew Sutton said. "It was a big situation."
The Rays' struggling offense stepped up, too, with Maddon's "new-look" lineup racking up 10 hits for the first time in 13 games. Maddon loaded up on right-handed hitters at the top against Yankees ace CC Sabathia with Desmond Jennings (third) and B.J. Upton (cleanup) in the heart of the order.
It worked. The Rays, who had scored one run in their previous 21 innings, scored five in a three-inning stretch thanks to some unlikely sources.
Lobaton, who had four hits all season (in seven games), delivered two hits, including a run-scoring single in the second.
Sutton, in his Yankee Stadium debut, ripped a two-run double in the fourth to make it 5-1 and added a run-scoring double in the ninth.
"I might not want to play here anymore after going 2-for-4 with two doubles," Sutton said, smiling. "I may want to cut it off after that."
With Price leaving after five, having allowed just three hits, Wade Davis helped shut the door with two perfect innings, in which he struck out four.
"I've never seen that out of him. I don't even think as a starter that kind of two-inning dominance," Maddon said. "He was really, really good."
So was Price, who despite having the second-shortest outing of the season helped the Rays win for the sixth time in his seven career matchups with Sabathia.
And as ugly as Tuesday's 7-0 loss was and as forgettable as the offense was in Wednesday's 4-1 loss, the Rays — having won for just the third time in their past nine — left for Miami all smiles in their all-white attire.
"How does that happen?" Maddon said. "We came back and played a much better game."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]m.