OAKLAND, Calif. — The 43 pitches David Price needed to get through the first inning Saturday were a pretty clear indication that things weren't going to be easy for the Rays.
But they still turned out pretty well by the end: a 5-4 win over the Athletics that snapped their two-game losing streak and kept them one game behind the Yankees.
"There's a lot of groups that would just kind of, I don't want to say pack it in, but just not fight as much as we did," manager Joe Maddon said. "We are dripping with perseverance this year, and I love that aspect about us. Nobody gets down, everybody comes back, they professionally go about their jobs. I really enjoy watching our guys do that."
It took a while to get there. Price, fortunate to allow only two runs in the 26-minute bottom of the first, righted himself for a while and the Rays rallied to tie, then when the A's went back ahead 4-2, the Rays — who blew leads the previous two nights — rallied again in the eighth and hung on.
Sean Rodriguez delivered the key hit, a two-run homer with two outs.
"Definitely feels good right there to come out with a win, especially to get them late after they got us the last two days," Rodriguez said. "It was big."
There were some other big hits, including Evan Longoria's homer in the second and Willy Aybar's RBI double ahead of Rodriguez's blast.
There were some big pitches, too, especially from Chad Qualls, who returned after missing two games to attend his grandmother's funeral and, with Joaquin Benoit unavailable, retired the side with one on in the eighth.
Price deserved some credit for perseverance, too, managing to work six innings despite his brutal beginning. After throwing 43 pitches (30 strikes) in a first inning that Maddon said wasn't as bad as it looked, he needed only 55 (with 43 strikes and just 12 balls) over the next five.
"The first inning was tough, I had some bad breaks, and that's baseball," Price said. "A lot of foul balls, not the best contact hits."
And the difference? "I guess I made better pitches."
With the win, the Rays (75-48) remained one game off the lead in the American League East and 5½ ahead of the Red Sox in the wild-card race with 39 to play.
The Rays were fortunate to be down only two after Price's miserable start. Two singles, two stolen bases and a hit batter (that initially looked like a run-scoring wild pitch) loaded the bases with A's, and a sac fly and a bloop single that dropped between diving leftfielder Carl Crawford, shortstop Jason Bartlett and centerfielder B.J. Upton made it 2-0.
Price went from bad to very good over the next four innings, throwing just eight pitches in the second and retiring 11 of the next 12, the only batter who reached erased on a double play.
The Rays tied it, as Longoria homered (for the third time in four games, after 19 without) and Crawford singled and scored.
But the A's reclaimed the lead in the sixth. Price allowed a leadoff walk then, after a lineout to third, a throwing error by Longoria and a strikeout, an RBI double to Mark Ellis on a two-out, 0-and-2 pitch. Compounding it, Rajai Davis followed with a single that scored Ellis.
Held to two runs (despite eight hits, two walks and a wild pitch) by impressive A's left-hander Brett Anderson, the Rays rallied in the eighth off Craig Breslow. Carlos Peña drew a one-out walk and Aybar knocked him in with a two-out double, then Rodriguez did the heavy lifting with a two-run homer to center.
"We just had to battle through it," Maddon said.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]