ST. PETERSBURG — LHP David Price threw almost the same number of pitches and gave up the same number of hits Saturday as he did in the shutout in his last start.
But the results, and how he felt about them, were quite different.
Price labored through the first two innings against the Royals, giving up two runs and throwing 52 pitches, before bouncing back to retire 11 of the final 12 batters he faced. Though Price lasted six innings and picked up his fourth quality start, he wasn't pleased with his first two innings.
"They just weren't very good," he said. "That's a completely different ballgame if I don't have those first two innings like that. My position players are out there standing, watch me throw (52 pitches). It takes them out of their rhythm."
Manager Joe Maddon said Price didn't have a good feel for his fastball early but mixed in some curveballs and got sharper as the game went on.
"I've seen it from him before," Maddon said. "He'll settle into a game when he starts incorporating his other pitches, and that's what he did."
IN THE PEN: Though RHP Lance Cormier said it was a tough loss, he felt good about his game plan in the 11th when he gave up two runs and walked three (one intentionally) and wouldn't have done much differently. He said he got the ground balls he wanted, they just found holes, including Alberto Callaspo's two-run double.
"I don't think I would have changed any pitch I made, maybe the one location to (Callaspo) a little more down," Cormier said. "But I still got the ground ball, and the fact it just went through, he happened to get the big hit at the right time."
GOOD SIGN: Ben Zobrist, who is off to a slow start, picked up three hits and a walk, his first multihit game since April 24, which Maddon said was a good sign.
"I thought Zo looked really good at the plate," Maddon said. "Drew a walk, three base hits, line drives through the middle. I really liked that a lot, thought he looked really good. As he gains his confidence, he's going to take off, too."
NAVI BACK: C Dioner Navarro returned to the lineup for the first time since getting ejected April 23, saying though "it's been only a week, it seems like it's been a month."
Navarro snapped an 0-for-21 skid with a double in the seventh, and Maddon said he looked good at the plate and behind it. The Rays were 7-1 with C John Jaso starting, but Maddon thought the rookie seemed a little fatigued. Maddon said Jaso will start today in the series finale and Navarro will likely play all three games in Seattle, with the Mariners throwing three left-handed pitchers.
ACE IN HOLE: Maddon said the Rays face a tough test today in Royals ace and AL Cy Young Award winner Zack Greinke.
"What makes him so good is he has an exceptional fastball, and he's got an exceptional breaking ball, and he's able to throw all these pitches for strikes," Maddon said. "He looks to be very competitive to me also. It's a combination of skill and athleticism."
Greinke has struggled at Tropicana Field (0-3, 5.55) and voiced his displeasure last year about the stadium's atmosphere, saying, "Their PR department promotes the game like it's a club and not a baseball game. It almost doesn't feel like you're playing baseball when you're playing here." But Greinke downplayed those comments Saturday, saying, "It's not as bad; I really haven't been paying attention."
MISCELLANY: The Rays are 17-3 on Summer Concert Series nights, dating to 2008. … LF Carl Crawford and Jaso will sign autographs today for kids from noon-12:30 p.m. along the first-base line.
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]s.com.