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A VERY WIGGLY WIN

Price strikes out 10, then watches Balfour work his way out of a ninth-inning mess.

Rays pitcher David Price went into Friday night's game against the Reds excited about the rare opportunity to hit.

He ended up leaving all the Rays thrilled with his pitching.

Though Price didn't get to finish what he started, he turned in a dazzling performance, striking out 10, working into the ninth and allowing just four hits in a 2-1 interleague victory.

It turned out to be a little more exciting after he left, as closer Grant Balfour replaced Price and with two outs walked the bases loaded before finishing for his third save.

A first-inning RBI single by Evan Longoria and a massive third-inning homer by Matt Joyce gave Price a 2-0 lead, and he seemed determined to take it from there.

Manager Joe Maddon appeared on board, allowing Price to bat, though apparently under orders not to swing, with one out in the top of the ninth inning.

Price got within two outs of his third career shutout, striking out Brandon Phillips after a delay for a discussion and then a replay review on a potential hit-by-pitch. But then he allowed an opposite-field home run to Joey Votto on his 114th pitch. That was enough for Maddon to call for Balfour.

Friday was Price's 150th career start, and he improved to 73-39, a .652 winning percentage that is the best among active major-league pitchers with at least that many starts.

Price had an interesting measure for success going into the game, hoping to make four trips to the plate, figuring that either his teammates would be piling up the hits or he would be pitching really well.

It was, no surprise, the latter, as he was sharp from the start, and ended up with 10 strikeouts and one walk, throwing 85 of those 114 pitches for strikes.

And he went 0-for-4 at the plate.

Price retired the first six - helped by a leaping catch at the left-centerfield wall by centerfielder Desmond Jennings - and got out of what little trouble he encountered next.

Price gave up a leadoff double in the third inning to catcher Devin Mesoraco, whom the Reds opted for in trading Ryan Hanigan to the Rays, but he retired the next three batters, getting a diving catch by second baseman Ben Zobrist.

And Price allowed a double to deep right to Phillips and a walk to open the fourth, then set down the next three, striking out Ryan Ludwick and Jay Bruce, and getting Todd Frazier on a fly to center.

Joyce's blast was high into the seats above the rightfield fence, estimated at 452 feet.

That certainly validated Maddon's decision - playing without the designated hitter, remember - to put him in the lineup in leftfield ahead of David DeJesus.

"I chose to go with Matt Joyce based on his recent - he's just hitting the ball well, great at-bats," Maddon said before the game.

Joyce singled with one out in the fifth inning, sending Jennings to third base in what looked like a prime scoring opportunity. But Longoria struck out and James Loney grounded into a force play.

The Rays came in looking for their first win in Cincinnati, having been swept in a three-game series during their only previous visit in 2005.

Marc Topkin can be reached at topkin@tampabay.com. Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.

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The 150 club

Among active pitchers with at least 150 starts, Rays left-hander David Price is the winningest:

Pitcher...................W-L......Pct.

David Price...........73-39... .652

Tim Hudson.......207-111... .649

Jered Weaver.....113-62.... .646

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