MILWAUKEE — So not everything went smoothly for David Price on Wednesday. He didn't get a hit in three trips to the plate (walk, flyout, strikeout) and he was at an embarrassing loss to explain how he ended up wearing the protective shin guard on his back leg during his second at-bat.
But otherwise, he pretty much had his way in the Rays' 6-3 series-winning victory over the Brewers.
Certainly on the mound, as he overcame a shaky first to throw eight impressive innings with a season-high 120 pitches. During his first time up, when he drew a walk, got to slide into second and proudly showed off the cut on his right knee.
And especially when he wandered uninvited from the on-deck circle to butt in to a conversation between Elliot Johnson and third-base coach Tom Foley at a key seventh-inning moment in what was then a 3-2 game, and ended up predicting Johnson's three-run blast that broke the game open.
"He said, 'Hit a homer and bring them in so I don't have to,' " Johnson said. "He called it."
"I just wanted to be part of the game, I guess," Price explained. "I just wanted to hear what (Foley) was going to tell him. What, hitters don't do that?"
The combination of Price's pitching and homers from the unlikely duo of Johnson (who hadn't had a hit since coming off the disabled list June 12) and Kelly Shoppach (who, even with recent improvement, had only 19 hits all season) was enough for the Rays to notch a rare feat. They became just the third team, joining the Reds and Mets, to win a series all season at Miller Park from the Brewers, who have the majors' best home record (26-11).
The Rays, meanwhile, continued their road warrior ways, improving to 23-16 away from the Trop and, with an 11-6 run going, to 41-34 overall to move back within 3½ games of first-place Boston.
"We come up here, they're a really good home team, we're a really good road team, so I anticipated a good series and it turned out to be that," manager Joe Maddon said. "I'm obviously much happier because we won two out of three. We played good. I'm pleased with the boys, man. We go on the road, it doesn't bother us."
The signs for success were good going into the game, Price feisty and focused about making up for his rough last outing, Brewers starter Shaun Marcum pitching with a sore hip. So of course Price, with no help from home-plate umpire Brian Knight, went out and gave up two runs in a 27-pitch first, and the Rays went down meekly.
But Shoppach, benefitting from extensive work with hitting coach Derek Shelton and more of a rightside approach, tied it with a two-run shot in the second. B.J. Upton's single put them up 3-2 in the sixth, and Johnson's three-run blast in the seventh was pretty much it, though the Brewers loaded the bases in the ninth before Kyle Farnsworth finished.
Price, meanwhile, got himself locked in, improving his tempo and his command, and took it from there, striking out 10, walking one and allowing five hits total.
"After the first inning," Shoppach said, "he was as good as he was all year."
Price, winless in his two previous starts, said he welcomed the challenge: "I felt like I needed to step it up."
"He went to the uber level today," Maddon said. "That's what he had to do, and he knew that. We split the first two games, they're a really good ballclub. We're playing in their ballpark where they're really good. He understands that, and we had to get that kind of pitching performance to beat them."
Price couldn't wait to talk about the cut on his knee and blood on his uniform pants from being forced out at second. "I'm a player today," he said.
The mixup with the shin guard, not so much. "I didn't even know until (Jeremy Hellickson) came up before my third at-bat and he was like, 'Hey, you know you had that on your back leg your last at-bat?' I had no idea," Price said. "I don't know what happened."
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org