ST. PETERSBURG — Rookie LHP David Price is often hard on himself after starts, seemingly a perfectionist in many ways.
So it was no surprise that Price held himself to a higher standard after Sunday's strong performance, when he held the Rangers to three runs, matched his career high by going seven innings and threw a career-high 114 pitches.
"It was a good outing on paper," Price said after the 4-0 loss. "But not good enough."
But 1B Carlos Peña approached him after the game and helped put the outing in perspective.
"I told him that he did a great job, awesome," Peña said. " 'You do that every single day and we're going to get you some wins.' We just couldn't score runs."
Price gave up two of his runs on a single in the third by 3B Michael Young, who extended his hitting streak to 11 games. Price seemed to get better as the game wore on, retiring the last 10 batters he faced, and lasted seven innings for just the third time this season.
"I kept us in the game," Price said. "I gave us a chance all the way to the end."
To Rangers manager Ron Washington, it was a stark contrast from the Price he saw July 4 in Arlington, Texas, when the left-hander gave up six runs and five walks in the shortest outing of his career (11/3). Price said he had a "little bit of pride to get back" from that start, which he labeled embarrassing.
"I thought he was much calmer," Washington said. "He didn't look like he was overthrowing the ball. He tried to use all his pitches, and he got them through six. The time I saw him over at our place, he just couldn't find the strike zone."
STANDING TALL: Rookie RHP Jeff Niemann enters his start tonight against Jays ace Roy Halladay with some confidence and the experience of having outdueled the All-Star in an earlier matchup this season.
"When you face him," Niemann said, "your margin for error is a bit smaller."
Rays manager Joe Maddon said the fact Niemann has been able to maintain his composure this season, no matter the situation, has been a big factor in his success (a staff-best 11 wins).
"That's why his fastball has gotten better, that's why his curveball has gotten more consistent for a strike," Maddon said. "Now he's able to throw what he wants to where he wants to. When he gets in a tough situation, he's able to get out of it because he controls himself so well."
WALKOFF WIN: The Rays' wives/girlfriends beat the Bucs' wives/girlfriends 6-5 on a walkoff single by Jennifer Hickey (wife of pitching coach Jim Hickey) in the sixth in a charity softball game benefiting the 1Voice Foundation. Most of the Rays players watched from the dugout area, and several Bucs players, including Ronde Barber, Michael Clayton and Kellen Winslow, were on hand. Michelle Burrell (who was 3-for-3 with three RBIs) and Stephanie Renica (fiancee of bullpen catcher Scott Cursi) hit homers for the Rays squad.
SHUT OUT: The Rays were shut out for the sixth time this season but first time at home. The last time the Rays were shut out at home was April 20, 2008, vs. the White Sox. … Also, Sunday marked just the third game at Tropicana Field (out of 63) this season without a homer by either team (July 9, 11).
MINOR MATTERS: 2B Akinori Iwamura continued his rehab assignment with Triple-A Durham, going 1-for-4.
Times staff writer Marc Topkin contributed to this report.