NEW YORK — The Rays needed this.
They needed to have left-hander David Price back on the mound with no crankiness in his shoulder. They needed to see signs of life from their oft-dormant offense. And, most of all, they needed to win, which after some eighth-inning consternation they did, 6-4 over the Yankees on Friday night.
"A big win for us," Price said.
"Very important," closer Fernando Rodney said.
"Huge," catcher Chris Gimenez said. "Coming off what happened in Baltimore we need to take a couple out of here, just mentally for our sake."
Having been swept in Baltimore, losing twice on the final pitch within 20 hours, the on-field handshakes and the raucous clubhouse celebration at Yankee Stadium — "We hadn't had it in a while, so it was more lively," Price said — were welcomed changes.
"You just can't keep losing tough games like that," manager Joe Maddon said. "You've got to have those short-term gains, and we had that today."
So too was the at-least-temporary halting of their slide out of playoff contention, as the Rays improved to 78-66 and moved back to within three games of the Yankees in the American League East and wild-card races. Baltimore played a late game at Oakland.
Price, forced to skip his last start due to shoulder soreness of an undetermined nature, looked like, well, Price.
He was a little shaky in the first and pretty darn good after that, a little off with his fastball command but sharp with his curve, winning his AL-leading 18th game. He worked seven innings, allowed two runs on five hits and two walks (both in the first inning), struck out six, threw 105 pitches, clocked in the high 90s, and had zero concerns about his shoulder.
"He was really good," Maddon said. "He had everything going on."
After scoring only two runs in each of the three games in Baltimore, the Rays' six runs were something of an achievement. The three-run fifth Friday was their biggest "outburst" in nearly two weeks, since a six-run second Sept. 2 in Toronto, which happened to be the last time Price pitched.
"We just played better offensively; that's what it came down to," Maddon said. "We've been pitching well enough to win games, we finally got the hits. And we got some hits at big moments."
Elliot Johnson had one after he failed on a safety-squeeze bunt and Maddon took it off. Johnson singled in Gimenez, who had doubled, as the tying run in the fifth. Desmond Jennings had one. Ben Zobrist, moved up to second in the order, had one. And B.J. Upton had one, his majors-most-matching 13th homer in a 32-game span since Aug. 11, and 23rd overall.
The Rays got help, too. A smash by Eduardo Nunez would have been extra bases, but it hit third-base umpire Jerry Meals, and an Evan Longoria grounder went under Nunez's glove at short to score a ninth-inning run.
Price left the Rays in good shape, but when reliever Joel Peralta allowed a two-run homer to Alex Rodriguez, then walked Robinson Cano in the eighth, Maddon summoned Rodney for his second five-out rescue of the month. It ended well, after only 18 pitches, with his majors-leading 43rd save.
"It was very important," Price said. "I don't know how many games we have left, but we have to win a lot of them."