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Tampa Bay Rays show hit- and run-robbing defense behind David Price

ST. PETERSBURG — Rays RF Matt Joyce still makes his living with his bat, but Friday night he displayed impressive glove work.

With LHP David Price pitching a perfect game with two outs in the fourth, Joyce got a jump on a deep liner to right-center off the bat off Orioles SS J.J. Hardy that appeared to be a sure extra-base hit.

But as the ball began to sail over Joyce's head, he made a leaping catch, crashing to the turf and holding onto the baseball.

"Everybody is aware of what's happening when you get into that point in the fifth inning," Joyce said of Price's perfect start through 13 hitters. "I just cheated a little toward the gap. Hopefully, next time (Price) can take it a little bit further."

Price's no-hit bid ended when Orioles C Matt Wieters singled through the right side of the infield with one out in the fifth. But then Joyce made an over-the-shoulder grab near the rightfield foul line on a well-struck ball by 1B Mark Reynolds.

Joyce, who is batting .295 after going 2-for-3 with a walk and a run scored, also takes pride in his defense.

"It's kind of what we're known for around here, pitching and defense," Joyce said. "Hitting comes and goes, but you can always play defense."

While Joyce tried to preserve the no-hitter, CF B.J. Upton did his part to save the shutout.

With the bases loaded and one out in the sixth, Hardy launched a deep ball to center for an apparent sacrifice fly. But Upton caught it, then fired to second base to nail a tagged-up Steve Tolleson for the final out before Bill Hall could cross the plate from third, negating the run.

Adam Jones is on deck, it's not really cool," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "So to be able to get out of it like that is outstanding for us."

HOMERING HIDEKI: The Rays love their infusion of power from OF Hideki Matsui, who blasted a 407-foot home run on the first pitch he saw in the first inning. It was Matsui's second home run in three games since being promoted from Triple-A Durham.

Rich Thompson replaced Matsui in leftfield in the seventh.

"If we have a lead like that, I want to get him off his feet late, and I think it's going to prolong and benefit him toward the end of the season for him and us," Maddon said.

LONGORIA's return: 3B Evan Longoria is on pace to return to the lineup before the July All-Star break, Maddon said.

Longoria will accompany the team on its upcoming six-game road trip to New York against the Yankees and Miami for a weekend series against the Marlins.

"He's doing a lot of work right now," Maddon said. "The big thing when you go out for the rehab is that you can play nine innings and be able to stand out there and feel comfortable. You can cut the bases, and it doesn't hurt. I'm not worried about the bat, hitting or fielding ground balls. He's doing a lot of that stuff now. So the big thing would be, 'How does my leg feel by being out there for three hours standing around?' That part of the rehab shouldn't be that long."

Meanwhile, LF Desmond Jennings had a hit in his rehab stint with Class A Charlotte on Thursday. He went 1-for-4 Friday with Triple-A Durham. Jennings is expected to rejoin the Rays in New York on Tuesday.

Miscellany: Price has worked seven or more innings in his past six starts, the longest such streak of his career and the longest in the AL this season. … LHP Jake McGee has made nine straight scoreless appearances. He struck out both batters he faced in the eighth. … Upton leads all major-league centerfielders with six assists this season.

Tampa Bay Rays show hit- and run-robbing defense behind David Price 06/01/12 [Last modified: Saturday, June 2, 2012 1:37am]

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