ST. PETERSBURG — Standing 6 feet 6 on a 10-inch mound, pitcher David Price has a way of leveling the playing field for the Rays.
In Friday's 5-0 win over the Orioles, Price retired the first 13 batters he faced before catcher Matt Wieters bounced a seeing-eye single through the infield between first and second with one out in the fifth inning.
Price left in the eighth to a standing ovation from 17,224 at Tropicana Field after scattering four hits and throwing 113 pitches to snap the Rays' three-game losing streak.
Helped by outstanding defense from outfielders Matt Joyce and B.J. Upton, Price tied the Rangers' Yu Darvish and the Indians' Derek Lowe with an American League-leading seventh victory to lift the Rays (30-22) to sole possession of first place in the American League East. The Orioles (29-23) lost their sixth straight game.
"That's the last thing I'm thinking about out there," Price said of the no-hit bid. "I want to go out there and get as many innings as possible and put up as many zeroes as possible."
In the bash-for-cash division with the Yankees and Red Sox, the Rays have struggled to score, particularly with leftfielder Desmond Jennings and third baseman Evan Longoria on the disabled list.
The Rays' bats were mostly silent in managing only six runs in three games while being swept by the White Sox this week. But the Rays nearly matched that output in the first inning Friday against Wei-Yin Chen.
Tampa Bay sent 10 men to the plate in a five-run first that was highlighted by a monster two-run blast by Hideki Matsui, his second homer in two starts.
Designated hitter Luke Scott drove in the first pair of runs with a bases-loaded single to center, one of five hits in the inning. A sacrifice bunt by third baseman Sean Rodriguez plated another. Leadoff man Carlos Peña, who doubled, made the first out when he was cut down at the plate on a grounder to short.
"It was great to get that kind of offensive outburst, even after having Carlos thrown out at the plate," manager Joe Maddon said. "All of a sudden we did some really good things to follow, including how about Matsui's homer? That was pretty far."
In the fourth, rightfielder Joyce made a diving catch in the gap of a line-drive hit by shortstop J.J. Hardy. The next inning, Joyce made an over-the-shoulder grab near the foul pole to rob first baseman Mark Reynolds.
In the sixth, centerfielder Upton preserved the shutout by doubling up the Orioles with a pinpoint throw to second base to nail Steve Tolleson and negate an apparent sacrifice fly.
Price was charged with a fourth hit in a postgame scoring change that gave Wilson Betemit, his final batter, a single on a grounder that was first called an error on second baseman Ben Zobrist.
Though Price fell short of a no-hitter, Maddon believes it's only a matter of time.
"It's something I'm sure he probably thinks about in some quiet moments," Maddon said. "When you see that kind of ability, that kind of skill level, you almost automatically think that can occur for that guy at some point in his career. And it probably will."