BOSTON — David Price is finding his groove.
The Tampa Bay Rays ace had one win through the season’s first two months, a shocking loss of form for the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner. After spending six weeks on the disabled list due to a left triceps strain, Price got back on track once he returned to action July 2.
The left-hander threw a complete-game five-hitter Wednesday at Fenway Park, leading the Rays to a 5-1 win over the Boston Red Sox. Price improved to 4-1 with a 1.76 earned run average this month.
The Rays scored three runs in the third inning, which was more than enough offense for Price (5-5).
Price needed just 97 pitches, 72 for strikes, to throw his third complete game in his past four starts. He gave up a solo homer to Mike Napoli in the seventh inning, but he issued no walks and struck out four.
“This is the team I feel like has the best approach at the plate,” Price said of the first-place Red Sox. “They’re a team that if they feel like a starter’s struggling, they’re not going to help him out by chasing pitches and expanding their zone a little.”
Rays manager Joe Maddon said, “You can see (the Red Sox) wanted to take more pitches, but they couldn’t because he kept throwing strikes. It’s a combination of strike-throwing with that stuff not in the middle of the plate, working the edges well. He had everything going on.
“It’s just hard to imagine a guy pitching better than he is right now. I don’t think I’ve seen it regarding quality of pitches, quality of stuff, location, good-hitting ballclub. He’s really on top of his game. That’s an understatement.”
Red Sox left-hander Felix Doubront (7-4) gave up three runs on six hits in 6 2/3 innings. He walked two and fanned five, throwing 66 of his 104 pitches for strikes.
All of the runs in the Rays’ decisive third-inning rally scored with two outs. Wil Myers hit a two-run single, and Luke Scott followed with a sacrifice fly.
“I thought Felix threw the ball very good again,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said. “In that third inning, a couple of balls drop in, a sinking liner in front of (left fielder Jonny) Gomes, the fisted ball by Myers to give them the first two runs, and then they execute the double steal to set up the sac fly. But once again, I thought he had very good stuff.”
Doubront said, “I think (the) fastball (was) a little bit off, but everything was working well, and … Price threw a good game. That’s baseball. This game is in the past. We got tomorrow.”
The Rays added two runs in the eighth. Myers singled off Pedro Beato with one out, and Matt Thornton replaced Beato. Scott reached on a fielder’s choice, with Myers getting erased at second base. Sean Rodriguez, James Loney and Jose Molina hit consecutive singles, putting the Rays up, 5-1.
Napoli’s 14th home run of the season provided Boston’s only offense.
NOTES: Boston RHP Clay Buchholz, who has been on the disabled list since June 9 with inflammation in the bursa sac of his right shoulder, threw from 90 feet with increased intensity. There is no timetable yet for his return to the rotation. … Tampa Bay LHP Alex Torres has allowed just eight hits in 99 at-bats this season. According to Elias, he would be just the second major league pitcher in the last 50 seasons, since 1964, to allow fewer than 10 hits in the first 100 at-bats of a season against him. The only other pitcher to do so in the last 50 seasons was Cincinnati’s Aroldis Chapman in 2012, when Chapman allowed nine hits in the first 100 at-bats against him. … RHP Taylor Guerrieri, the Rays’ top pitching prospect, underwent Tommy John surgery Wednesday and is expected to be out at least a year. … Rays 3B Evan Longoria hit second Wednesday night and went 1-for-5. He entered the game with one previous plate appearance in his career batting second. Maddon said he made the move hoping to “unlodge” Longoria from a slump in which he was batting .167 in his previous 23 games. … Myers batted cleanup for the second time. … Tampa Bay RHP Alex Cobb had a minor setback Tuesday in his first rehab outing after getting hit in the head by a line drive June 15. He left his rehab start after two pitches because of a blister on his right index finger. He is hoping to make his next rehab start this weekend or early next week, aiming for a return to the Rays in early August.