St. Petersburg, FL (SportsNetwork.com) - David Price struck out 11 in 8 1/3 innings as the Tampa Bay Rays defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates, 5-1, Wednesday afternoon at Tropicana Field.
Price (6-7) allowed just one run on five hits with one walk for the Rays, who salvaged the finale of this three-game set. The left-hander became the first pitcher in the majors to record double-digit strikeouts in five straight starts since Johan Santana did it for the Twins in 2004.
Over his last five starts, Price has struck out a total of 54 over 39 2/3 innings while surrendering 10 earned runs on 32 hits. Despite those numbers, however, he won for only the second time over that span (2-3).
"I had a ton of defensive plays behind me," Price said. "Those are game changers."
Ben Zobrist had two hits, drove in a run and scored twice for the Rays, who got all they would need during a three-run first inning to end a 10-game homestand at 5-5.
Charlie Morton (4-9) suffered the tough-luck loss after surrendering three runs -- two earned -- on four hits in seven innings for Pittsburgh, which had a four-game win streak halted. He struck out a career-high 11 and walked only one, suffering his second straight loss after winning three in a row.
Andrew McCutchen accounted for the only real blemish to Price's line, blasting a one-out homer in the ninth to force Price from the contest. Jake McGee, though, came on for Price to finish out the game and secure the win.
The Rays staked Price to a quick lead in the first inning. After Desmond Jennings led off with a base hit off Morton, Zobrist followed with a triple to bring Jennings home and scored when shortstop Jordy Mercer was charged with an error off the bat of Evan Longoria. A bases-loaded sacrifice fly by Kevin Kiermaier accounted for the final run of the inning.
Morton settled down after the three-hit opening frame, allowing only one base hit over the rest of his stint. He retired the final 10 batters he faced and struck out five during that run, including the last four.
"After the first inning he just repeated his delivery, found his stroke," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said.
Price was also cruising and got out of trouble in the seventh thanks to Jennings. With two on and two out, Neil Walker hit a drive to left-center that Jennings snared with a leaping catch while crashing into the wall to prevent an extra-base hit.
Tampa later added two in the eighth off reliever Jason Grilli on a James Loney RBI hit and a Kiermaier bunt single that plated another.
Both pitching staffs combined to strikeout 26 batters and walk only two.