07/29/10 4:23 PM ET
Price rides Pena's production to No. 14
Rays complete four-game sweep of Tigers with duel at the Trop
By Adam Berry / MLB.com
The left-hander picked up his 14th win of the season, tied for the most in team history, and the Rays held on to beat the Tigers, 4-2, before 26,716 in Tropicana Field with Pena driving in all of the team's runs.
Tampa Bay (63-38) moved to a season-high 25 games over .500, extended its winning streak to six games and notched its 19th win in the last 25 games by completing the home sweep of Detroit (51-50) -- the first four-game sweep in Tropicana Field since July 28-31, 2005.
"I like the way we're playing baseball. It's been great," Pena said. "It's been a great combination of pitching, defense and hitting. That's what we're capable of doing on a consistent basis. It's not that one needs to carry the other. All we're trying to do is have everyone chip in a little bit, and I think the results will be pleasing in the end."
Price took care of his end, relying almost exclusively on his fastball while surrendering two runs on seven hits and two walks while striking out nine batters in 6 1/3 innings of work. He battled through a 30-pitch fourth inning, during which he started mixing in more of his offspeed pitches.
"I thought I had a good fastball today. I pitched off that," Price said. "We played good defense. We played a good baseball game. It's kind of what we've been doing all year, and I just want to keep it going."
The win matched the previous franchise-best 14, held by James Shields (2008), Edwin Jackson ('08) and Rolando Arrojo (1998), while also giving Price the American League lead. Price remained humble about the record and the idea that he might be Tampa Bay's first 20-game winner, but his teammates praised the young lefty's unmatched talent and composure.
"The sky's the limit with a guy like Price. He's just a kid. Let's not forget about that," Pena said. "He's already obviously made a name for himself and established himself as one of the best pitchers in the league. I'm just so proud of him -- not just because of what he's accomplished on the field, but I just think his maturity level is second to none. That's impressive to me. That doesn't come that easy, even though it looks like it does for him."
Even Tigers manager Jim Leyland had nothing but good things to say about Price, particularly his fastball.
"He's got good life up top. You hope to lay off it, but it's hard to lay off," Leyland said. "They look like they're there, then they got some late life and jump at you a little bit."
Manager Joe Maddon has often said that when Pena is hot at the plate, he is capable of carrying Tampa Bay's lineup on his own. Pena certainly proved that Thursday, going 3-for-4 with a home run as he took over the team lead in RBIs (68). Since his average fell to a season-low .169, Pena is hitting .270 over his last 46 games.
"He's confident," Maddon said. "Carlos is the kind of guy, as we've talked about, who can play every day. I'm not concerned about giving Carlos a rest because of the way he is, his approach to the day. He's kind of a tension-free player, so he doesn't get a lot of angst about the day, and he's able to perform. I can understand why he gets better as it gets deeper."
The lefty-hitting slugger nailed his 23rd home run of the season in the second inning, taking a pitch from Detroit's Rick Porcello all the way to the D-ring catwalk in right field to put Tampa Bay ahead 1-0 in the second.
The Tigers tied it up in the third, as Will Rhymes led off the inning with a line-drive triple to the center-field wall and scored three batters later on Ramon Santiago's forceout hit to Reid Brignac. But Pena came up with a timely hit in the bottom half of the frame, driving in Kelly Shoppach and Sean Rodriguez with a bases-loaded single that bounced off first baseman Miguel Cabrera's glove. Cabrera erred on another ground ball by Pena in the eighth, allowing Rodriguez to come home for the final run of the game.
Cabrera found himself in a familiar situation after Austin Jackson cut the lead to just one run in the top of the seventh. Maddon had reliever Randy Choate intentionally walk Cabrera -- the same thing they did Tuesday and Wednesday, also in the seventh. The move once again paid off, as Choate got Brennan Boesch to ground out to Pena to end the inning.
When Maddon made the decision to intentionally walk Cabrera in the exact same situation for the third straight game, Pena said all he could think about was the sign in the Rays clubhouse that reads, "Fortune favors the bold."
"That's living that sign. That's materializing it right there," Pena said. "You take your chances, and obviously it worked out for us right there. Joe's not afraid to make those types of decisions. It's awesome. I love it."
Adam Berry is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.