CLEVELAND — This time, David Price was only mad at himself.
The four perfect innings he started with against the hot-hitting Indians and the shutout he took into the eighth hardly seemed to matter as Price stood at his locker after the 8-2 win Wednesday, again disappointed he fell short of a complete game.
"I've got to be able to finish a game better than that," he said. "The eighth and ninth innings right now are what's giving me trouble. I want to be able to finish these games."
No one else in the Rays clubhouse had any complaints with what otherwise was a sterling effort — five hits, seven strikeouts and no walks.
"He was very good," manager Joe Maddon. "Very good."
The Rays are used to seeing such excellence from Price, who earned his fifth win and also got a bruise on his right wrist — with about 10 stitches imprinted from the ball — after being hit by a line drive.
They saw a few other encouraging signs as well as they improved to 21-15 overall and moved back into a first-place AL East tie with the Yankees:
Three hits from Sam Fuld, who had only three total in his previous 11 games (and 50 at-bats), dropping his average from .350 to .238. With two ground ball singles and a line drive, he had his first three-hit game since April 22 and hiked his average back up to .254.
"That's what he looked like when he got off to that great start," Maddon said. "We've got to get him back more on the ground and on a line and stay out of the air."
Two RBIs from Ben Zobrist, who hadn't driven in a run in 10 games after knocking in 10 during the day-night doubleheader in Minnesota on April 28.
And even a rally-starting bunt single by the now officially suspended-for-two-games B.J. Upton, who doesn't usually drop down in nonsacrifice situations but could benefit greatly from doing so given his speed.
"(Third baseman Jack Hannahan) gave it to me, so I took advantage of it," Upton said. "A lot of times I look down there and they're playing it, and I'm not that great of a bunter. I'll take my chances swinging a bat right now. Maybe I need to get a little bit better at it."
Price was perfect through the first four innings, and smooth in doing so, before allowing a double to Carlos Santana to open the fifth. He notched six more outs, then allowed another double to Asdrubal Cabrera to start the seventh. Then he got three more before doubles to Orlando Cabrera and Matt LaPorta, losing the shutout in the eighth.
"Whether I go eight or nine, I don't want to give up runs right there," Price said.
Price was visibly upset when Maddon took him out of his last start after 8-2/3, and an April 23 outing in Toronto when he allowed three hits to start the ninth. But when he threw 21 pitches in the eighth Wednesday to push his total to 112, and with a key start against the Yankees coming on Monday, he knew what was coming and had no objections.
Maddon has come to understand, and appreciate, Price's quest for perfection, and not take it personally.
"He's just that competitive," Maddon said. "He's a lot of fun in games when he's not pitching. But otherwise he is really competitive — as competitive as any guy I've ever been around."
The night wasn't without some satisfaction for Price, as he ran down Shelley Duncan's pop-up just on the foul side of the first-base line to end the eighth.
"I told everybody I'm catching one fly ball this year," Price said. "So that was my one."
Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@sptimes,com.