BOSTON — The Rays were piling up so many offensive numbers in their 14-5 win over the Red Sox on Tuesday that their biggest concern actually became how long it was taking.
Eventually, starter David Price gave up his prime seat in the Fenway Park dugout to traipse through the narrow tunnel and up the wooden stairs to the clubhouse to ride the exercise bike to pass the time.
"It's easy to sit there and watch our offense do what they're doing," Price said. "But you've got to keep your head in the game and you've got to stay loose. … I rode it for quite a while. I don't mind."
It took a while, as the Rays piled up some head-spinning totals, especially stunning given how many nights their offensive performance has been head-shaking.
The 14 runs were a season high, continuing something of a warming trend as they also batted around twice, making it four times in their past three games while scoring 26.
So were the five home runs, including a tying and momentum-changing shot by Ben Zobrist in the second and massive blasts by Evan Longoria and B.J. Upton that soared into the parking garage across Landsdowne Street. Dan Johnson and Jason Bartlett also went deep.
"The offense is kinda getting a little more perky," manager Joe Maddon said.
"Hopefully we can continue," Longoria said.
Carl Crawford reached one of the few milestones that has escaped him, with the first triple doubles game of his career, as well as his major-league-leading eighth game with four or more hits.
"Carl is very contagious," Maddon said. "When he's doing that kind of stuff — it's not only the hits but what he creates on the bases — he's a run-scoring machine. He makes everybody else around him better."
The win was Tampa Bay's 41st on the road, setting a team record while guaranteeing a winning mark. And it allowed the Rays (84-54) to gain ground in both directions, as they closed to within 1½ games of the Yankees in the American League East and widened their wild-card lead to seven games over the White Sox and 7½ over the Red Sox.
"We needed the win more than anything,'' Longoria said.
"It's big," Price said. "Any win right now is huge."
And while the Red Sox will remain mathematically alive for another couple of weeks, they seem to have acknowledged the inevitable, or at least the highly improbable, scratching plans to start ace Clay Buchholz tonight on short rest for the first time in his career and switching instead to veteran Tim Wakefield.
But it was Price who played the most important role of the night and ended up with the perhaps the most significant number: a 17 in his win column.
The Rays had lost three straight and starting pitching, so much a key to their success, had been a large part of the problem. But Price would having nothing of it, overcoming a bit of a shaky, and somewhat unfortunate, first inning and taking over from there, allowing just one hit over his next five innings.
"He's been the anchor," Longoria said. "He's been the stopper for us. He's been able to get us out of the rut when we need it. And (Tuesday) is no different."
"As usual,'' Upton said.
With a 17-6, 2.87 record, and with Yankees ace CC Sabathia dropping to 19-6, 3.14, Price is re-emerging in the AL Cy Young race. But not that he's thinking much about it.
"I get asked about it every now and then, that's about all the thinking I do about that. I'm set on bigger goals than that," Price said. "We've got the World Series on our mind right now; that's what we're playing for.'
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]