ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. (AP) — If it was David Price's last start for the Tampa Bay Rays, it will go down as one of his best.
Price struck out 11, becoming the first pitcher in 10 years to fan at least 10 in five straight starts, and the Rays beat the Pittsburgh Pirates 5-1 on Wednesday.
"I've never been as good as I am right now, period. Not in 2012 (when he won the Cy Young Award), not in college, not in high school," declared Price, who is rumored to be on the trading block from the last-place Rays. "This is the best pitcher I've ever been. I feel in complete control on the mound at all times,
"I'm throwing all my pitches on both sides of the plate, and that's tough to do."
Price (6-7) gave up five hits and one walk in 8 1-3 innings, leaving the game after Andrew McCutchen's home run in the ninth.
"(Finishing the game) is something I wanted to do for sure," Price said, "but I understand Joe (Maddon) coming out there after McCutchen hit the home run. The last batter at Vanderbilt was a home run, my last batter last year was a home run, and now you guys think I'm out of here and my last hitter for the Rays was a home run again."
The last pitcher with five straight starts with 10 strikeouts was Minnesota's Johan Santana from June 20-July 11, 2004.
Price also set a franchise record for strikeouts in a month with 54. He went 2-3 in five June starts.
"I'm sure it's been said before: Price was right today," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said. "His 107th pitch was 97 (mph), so he was on his game today. He's been one of the best for a while."
Ben Zobrist's RBI triple highlighted the Rays' three-run first inning off Charlie Morton. Desmond Jennings and James Loney had singles, and Kevin Kiermaier drove in a run with a sacrifice fly.
Morton (4-9) struck out a career-high 11 in seven innings, giving up four hits.
Price was backed by defensive plays that included Evan Longoria landing in the first row of the stands after making a running catch of a popup, and center fielder Jennings running down Neil Walker's 400-foot line drive at the wall with two men on base.
"The way David pitched today, you've got to try to make all the plays for him," Jennings said. "If he pitches like that, which he normally does, you just want to go out and do your job."
McCutchen's homer was his 12th of the season and eighth this month.
The Pirates failed for the seventh time this season to finish off a series sweep of at least three games.
NOTES: RHP Gerrit Cole, out since June 4 with right shoulder fatigue, will return to the Pirates rotation on Saturday against the New York Mets. ... Pittsburgh OF Sterling Marte, who left Tuesday night's game after being injured on a stolen base attempt, passed a concussion test but was kept out of the lineup. ... Rays SS Yunel Escobar was held out due to a sore shoulder, but he is expected to play Friday at Baltimore. ... The Rays will add RHP Alex Colome to the roster on Friday to start Game 1 of a day-night doubleheader, the beginning of an 11-game trip.