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OAK@TB: Price fans 12 over eight impressive innings

ST. PETERSBURG -- Every night, another hero seems to step forth for the surging Rays during this glorious, do-no-wrong streak they are currently enjoying.

While David Price certainly did the lion's share of the work -- stacking up 12 strikeouts en route to his fifth win of the season, Matt Joyce was that guy Friday night, the catalyst who ignited a nine-hit attack.

And Joyce did so with his glove, much to the delight of the 18,799 watching at Tropicana Field.

The Rays' winning streak moved to six with their 7-2 win over the Athletics to maintain their status as the keepers of the Major League's best record at 19-8. The win also brought the team its 10th consecutive win at home and its 12th win in its last 13 games.

Joyce's heroics came after Jonny Gomes had already doubled and scored a run in the second to put the Athletics up 1-0. Would this be the night the magic stopped? And at the hands of a revered former Ray like Gomes.

Joyce had other ideas.

Jemile Weeks stepped to the plate with one out in the third and shot a ball down the right-field line that appeared to be sinking faster toward the artificial turf than Joyce appeared to be moving. At the last instant, the Rays' right fielder dove. He crash-landed, skidded and wound up splayed against the wall -- with the ball safely tucked inside his glove.

"You know it was just a hard hit ball down the line and I thought I might have a chance at it," Joyce said. "And I was getting closer and closer to the wall. I figured I'd go for it and try and keep a guy from getting extra bases. Fortunately, I caught it. It always hurts less when you catch it."

A nice ovation followed, including kudos from Price, who walked from the mound to signal his appreciation for the extraordinary effort.

The catch "was pretty darn important," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He's done that before. He's just become such a good outfielder over the last couple of years. He's worked at it diligently. But it was a very, very big play. That ball gets beyond him and all of a sudden all other kind of things can break loose."

Joyce's charge seemed to fuel the offense, which scored three in the third thanks to B.J. Upton's RBI double and Luke Scott's two-run single. And four in the fourth via Jose Molina's two-run homer, his first of the season, along with RBIs from Upton and Joyce to give the Rays a 7-1 lead.

"It kind of seemed like it got things going and sometimes it just takes a little momentum to get the bats and everything rolling," Joyce said. "Might have been that way tonight, but I think from the get-go we had some momentum going and the confidence to kind of keep rolling."

Meanwhile, Price continued to deal in dominating fashion, holding the Athletics to one run on three hits in eight innings.

"Electric stuff, absolutely," said Gomes of Price. "When I left [the Rays] in 2008, he was just rearing back and chucking, didn't have much command of his offspeed. Obviously, I've been watching him, he's been doing pretty well, he looked pretty good."

Price classified Friday night's start as his best of the season.

"I feel like this was the best fastball command I've had all year," Price said. "Hopefully, it continues to get better.

"... It carried over from the bullpen. I felt good whenever I started playing catch in the outfield with [catcher] Jose [Molina], then it carried over to the bullpen and carried over to the game."

Price has won his last four starts. Maddon obviously likes what he's seeing.

"I think his confidence is reemerging," Maddon said. "We've always had confidence in him, but you have to have confidence in yourself. So the confidence is reemerging. ... You combine confidence with that kind of skill level -- heads up."

Price did not dispute that his confidence level is high.

"Right now, I feel good taking that ball every fifth day," Price said. "I like where I'm at personally, and I'm getting in a groove with [Catcher Chris] Gimenez and Molina, and it's starting to roll pretty good right now."

As for the Rays and their hero-a-night mode, Maddon believes that's a good thing.

"I'm sure if you look through the annals of baseball, a lot of championship teams will say the same thing," Maddon said. "It's a different guy every night. And I really like the sound of that."

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