HOUSTON -- Tampa Bay's offense rescued struggling David Price on Sunday.
John Jaso homered and drove in four runs, Ben Zobrist and Hank Blalock added solo shots and the Rays overcame a shaky start by their left-handed ace in a 10-6 win over the Houston Astros.Carl Crawford stole a season-high three bases and scored three runs as the Rays moved their major league-leading road record to 19-5. The Rays are 32-12 overall, the best start in the American League since Seattle won 33 of its first 44 in 2001.Tampa Bay's starters came in with a 24-7 record and major league-low 2.61 ERA. The Rays' offense is pretty good, too, ranking third in the majors in runs (230) before Sunday's game."We just cannot pitch with that kind of effectiveness every night. It's just not going to happen," manager Joe Maddon said. "You have to do all those different things in order to win as many games as we have. The offense definitely picked us up."Price (7-1) came in with the top ERA in the AL (1.81), but the normally stagnant Houston offense scored five runs on him in five innings. Price sounded like he didn't deserve the victory after Tampa Bay took the lead in the sixth against Houston reliever Brian Moehler."It wasn't my best day," Price said.Pedro Feliz and Hunter Pence homered off Price for the Astros, who've lost eight of 10.Houston starter Bud Norris had a career-high 10 strikeouts, but also lasted only five innings. He allowed five runs on six hits, three of them home runs."Strikeouts are a nice stat," Norris said. "But at the end of the day, I want to help the team win. I'm not really worried about striking guys out but just getting outs."The Houston bullpen gave up five runs on nine hits."It was great to see our team not put our heads down and say, 'This is all we're going to score," Jaso said. "We just kept swinging and kept working good at-bats."The Astros scored four runs in the first inning, more than they'd scored in eight of their previous nine games. Price had not given up more than three runs in eight prior starts."I left some pitches up, didn't make pitches," Price said. "Just brutal."The first three hitters reached base and Carlos Lee drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. Feliz followed with a three-run homer to left, the 1,000th by an Astro at Minute Maid Park.Price had not given up a home run in five starts and after he walked Geoff Blum, pitching coach Jim Hickey visited the mound. Price walked rookie shortstop Tommy Manzella, a .186 hitter, but retired the next two batters to end a 41-pitch inning.The Rays' bats took over from there.Zobrist led off the third with a homer to right. Crawford reached on Manzella's error, stole second and scored on Carlos Pena's single to make it 4-2.Crawford walked in the fifth and Jaso hit a tying homer to right. Norris struck out Pena before Blalock drove a 1-0 pitch into the left-field porch to put the Rays up 5-4."They're going to swing and miss or they're going to put the barrel on the ball," Norris said. "It's a very fine line."Pence re-tied it with a solo shot in the bottom half, his fifth in his last 15 games.Moehler (0-1) relieved Norris for the sixth, and yielded two runs without recording an out. Pinch hitter Willy Aybar and Zobrist hit back-to-back RBI singles to right, and Houston manager Brad Mills brought in left-hander Gustavo Chacin.Joaquin Benoit replaced Price, marking just the ninth time this season that a Rays' starter had not lasted at least six innings. Benoit struck out the side in the sixth.Jeff Keppinger doubled off Dan Wheeler in the seventh and scored on Pence's single to make it 7-6. But the Rays answered with a three-run eighth off Chris Sampson, capped by Jaso's hit down the right-field line.Rafael Soriano finished the ninth for his 13th save.
The Astros dropped to 13-4 when scoring at least four runs. ... Astros CF Michael Bourn served a one-game suspension, stemming from a confrontation with first-base umpire Alfonso Marquez on May 8. Bourn was initially suspended for two games, but appealed and got the penalty reduced. ... After the game, Houston activated LHP Tim Byrdak from the disabled list and optioned Chacin to Triple-A Round Rock.