For far different reasons, David Price 's most recent outing versus the Red Sox may have provided motivation for his current surge.
The left-handers oppose each other Wednesday night at Fenway Park as AL East-leading Boston looks to deal Tampa Bay a second straight loss for the first time in nearly a month.
The Rays (59-42) had an opportunity to move into first place Tuesday, but had their six-game winning streak snapped with a 6-2 loss to the Red Sox (61-41).
"We've been playing pretty darned good, and I am not going to be negative or critical about our group at all," manager Joe Maddon said.
Boston's victory increased its lead to 1 1/2 games over the Rays, and it avoided falling out of first place for the first time since May 25. It has won 10 of the 14 meetings with Tampa."Where we are in the standings, where they are (and) knowing we're only still in July, this (still) was a big game for us," manager John Farrell said.
Doubront (7-3, 3.76 ERA) has gone 3-0 with a 1.83 ERA over his last six starts, beginning when he allowed three hits in eight scoreless innings of Boston's 3-1 win over the Rays in the second game of a doubleheader June 18.
"This game gives me more confidence," Doubront said after that outing. "I needed this. I needed this to get more confident, trust more in my pitches. I'll go the next game and try to do the same and stay on one page, this page."
He's stayed positive while winning three straight starts, most recently giving up two runs - one earned - in 6 1-3 innings of a 4-2 win over the New York Yankees on Friday.
"My confidence, my focus is improving," Doubront said. "I'm just trying to go deep and help the team win the game, keep the score down and let my team score runs."
Doubront is 2-1 with a 3.06 ERA in six starts versus the Rays, though Price is 4-1 with a 2.13 ERA in eight starts at Fenway.
Price (4-5, 4.03) was roughed up for four runs in 2 1-3 innings before leaving with a strained left triceps in a 9-2 loss to the Red Sox on May 15, but he's gone 3-1 with a 1.97 ERA in four starts since returning from a nearly seven-week stint on the disabled list.
He allowed a career worst-tying three homers and four runs in seven innings but picked up an 8-5 win at Toronto on Friday."I thought he kept getting better," Maddon said. "He wasn't bad at the beginning, he just threw it in a couple of bad spots."
Price already has matched last season's loss total in 18 fewer starts, but the reigning AL Cy Young Award winner gave up one run and struck out eight in six innings of Tampa's 2-1, 10-inning defeat April 13 at Boston.
Dustin Pedroia , who reportedly has agreed to a seven-year, $100 million extension with the Red Sox, is hitting .343 with a homer and four doubles lifetime off Price.
Boston has won six of the eight meetings at Fenway this season.
|Tampa Bay Rays|
|June 28, 2013||Evan Longoria||Day-to-Day||Plantar fasciitis, left foot|
|June 16, 2013||Alex Cobb||15-Day DL||Concussion|
|June 05, 2013||Kelly Johnson||Day-to-Day||Back stiffness|
|May 16, 2013||David Price||15-Day DL||Left triceps strain|
|May 16, 2013||David Price||15-Day DL||Left triceps strain|
|May 08, 2013||Brandon Gomes||15-Day DL||Strained right lat|
|Boston Red Sox|
|July 19, 2013||Shane Victorino||Day-to-Day||Left game - left hamstring tightness|
|July 13, 2013||Andrew Bailey||15-Day DL||Right shoulder strain|
|July 09, 2013||Alex Wilson||15-Day DL||Sprained right thumb|
|July 08, 2013||Jacoby Ellsbury||Day-to-Day||Sore left wrist|
|July 07, 2013||Andrew Miller||60-Day DL||Left foot surgery - out for season|
|June 29, 2013||Stephen Drew||15-Day DL||Right hamstring tightness|
BOSTON (AP) -- David Price is in quite a groove, one perhaps even better than his 2012 American League Cy Young Award winning season.
Price pitched a five-hitter for his third complete game of the season, Wil Myers had a two-run single, and the surging Tampa Bay Rays won for the 19th time in 22 games by beating the Boston Red Sox 5-1 on Wednesday night.
Price (5-5) needed only 97 pitches - 72 strikes - for his seventh career complete game. He struck out four and didn't walk a batter.
Since returning from a 47-day stint on the disabled list because of a triceps strain, he is 4-1 with a 1.76 ERA in five starts - with three of the last four complete games.
"Absolutely," Price said when asked if he is better now than any time a year ago. "Last year, I feel like I had complete control of two pitches. Right now, honestly, I feel like I have four pitches I can throw at any time."
The 27-year old left-hander overpowered Boston's hitters, relying on a hard mid-90s fastball and sharp slider to lower his career ERA to 1.96 in Fenway Park. That is the lowest mark among active pitchers with at least 20 innings there.
"I didn't know what to expect when he came back," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It's just hard to imagine a guy pitching better than he is now. I don't think I've seen it in regards to quality of pitches and stuff, location against a good hitting ballclub."
Even Price, 20-5 with a 2.56 ERA last season, feels like the club's pitchers are dominating at an amazing pace.
"It's just like hitting," he said. "You hear it all the time - hitting is contagious. So is pitching. We've been on a good groove, It's been fun. We feel like we have five guys that can go out there and win anytime. I don't think there are many teams in the majors that can say that."
Since dropping into the AL East basement by percentage points on June 23, the Rays have relied on starting pitching to go 22-5. Tampa Bay's starters have a majors' best 2.21 ERA during the run.
"He was throwing strikes all night long," Boston manager John Farrell said of Price. "I think up until about the sixth inning he was right around 80 percent strikes, which is almost unheard of. He never gave us a chance to build any kind of inning. Tip your hat. He pitched one heck of a game against us."
James Loney had two hits and drove in a run for the Rays. Tampa Bay moved within a half-game of the AL East-leading Red Sox.
Mike Napoli homered for Boston, which lost for the fifth time in eight games.
Felix Doubront (7-4) gave up three runs and six hits. He walked two and struck out six in 6 2-3 innings. It was his 13th straight game allowing three runs or fewer, the best stretch by a Red Sox left-hander since at least 1920.
"The bottom line is we're still in first place," Doubront said. "That's how I look at it. Give credit where credit is due. David Price pitched a great game."
Boston lost for the fifth time in 15 games against the Rays.
Tampa Bay jumped ahead with three runs in the third on Myers' two-run single and Sean Rodriguez 's sacrifice fly. Myers' bloop fell into shallow center after the Rays loaded the bases on two singles and a fielder's choice.
In the seventh, Napoli homered over the seats above the Green Monster and out of the park.
Loney and Jose Molina each had RBI singles off Matt Thornton to push the Rays' lead to 5-1 in the eighth.
Like in the opening game of the series when left-hander Matt Moore threw a two-hitter in a 3-0 victory, the Red Sox had trouble stringing hits together.
In the fifth, Napoli had a leadoff double, but the next three hitters flied out. Boston also had leadoff singles in the second and fourth, but Price retired the side easily both times.
Doubront had been 3-0 with a 1.83 ERA in his previous six starts, allowing two earned runs or fewer in all of them.
NOTES: Maddon juggled his lineup, moving Evan Longoria up to the No. 2 spot. "Hopefully he'll see a different type of pitching," Maddon said. Longoria had homered in three of his previous five games, but hit just .136 in his previous 18 with one homer. Maddon inserted hot rookie Myers in the cleanup spot. ... Boston sends John Lackey (7-7, 2.95 ERA) against Tampa Bay's Jeremy Hellickson (9-3, 4.62 ERA) in the series finale on Thursday. ... Rays highly touted prospect RHP Taylor Guerrieri underwent ulnar collateral ligament surgery on Wednesday in Pensacola, Fla. He is expected to miss the rest of this season and part of next season.