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TB@MIN: Price hurls seven solid for 15th of the year

MINNEAPOLIS -- Tampa Bay scored three runs in the first inning, which turned out to be enough due to another strong outing from David Price to earn the Rays their fifth consecutive victory, defeating the Twins, 4-2, Saturday at Target Field.

Price earned his 15th win of the year, tying him with Jered Weaver of the Angels for the most wins in the American League.

Price ran into trouble a couple of times in the game. In the second inning, three straight Minnesota batters singled to lead off the inning and Price gave up a solo home run to Brian Dozier in the fifth inning. In a workman-like effort, Price bared down, limiting the Twins to two runs on the night.

"Maybe not his best overall stuff, but really good. You get kind of spoiled watching him as often as we do," Rays Manager Joe Maddon said. "The Twins are a very good offensive ball club. They don't punch out, they move the baseball, they create situations for themselves and he was able to pitch through that."

Price also escaped a minor jam in the seventh inning, but struck out the last two batters he faced with runners on base. Price sent down 10 consecutive batters at one stretch of the game in striking out five Twins batters over seven innings of work.

Price admitted it probably wasn't his best performance this season, but it's evident that even when he is just good, and not great, he can propel his team to a win.

"I was just trying to throw strikes. I felt like I was behind in counts more than I have been recently, but I will take the win," Price said. "Three runs in the first makes my job a lot easier. Our team is playing well right now and that's what I wanted to do, give our team a chance to win today."

If Price didn't have his A-stuff Saturday, it sure fooled Twins Manager Ron Gardenhire.

"I think you saw why that guy is one of the best left-handers in the league. He's filthy. He was going inside, outside, backdoor breaking balls, throwing 96 mph. We put together a couple of innings on him, but pretty much got shut down," Gardenhire said.

The offensive star Saturday night was B.J. Upton, who hit two moonshot home runs, both of which traveled well more than 400 feet. He also collected three of Tampa's four RBIs on the night. Ben Zobrist also had a nice night at the plate, collecting three hits, including a double, in his first three trips to the plate. Ryan Roberts also added a couple of hits for Tampa.

Maddon said that home runs from Upton are always welcome, but what he appreciates right now is the way Upton approaches his at-bats.

"He is playing the game right. He's driving the ball to the right side, he's playing the game," Maddon said.

The Rays wasted no time in picking up where they left off Friday night when they scored 12 runs in a victory. Saturday, the first three batters against Twins starter Nick Blackburn scored, courtesy of back-to-back home runs by Upton and Matt Joyce. It was the third time this season Tampa Bay hitters connected on back-to-back home runs. It was also the third time Upton had a multihomer game in his career. He now has 12 home runs this season.

Blackburn said he was caught off guard by how aggressive the Rays hitters were in the first inning.

"Those first three hitters just kind of ambushed me. I came out and I wasn't where I wanted to be location-wise and it pretty much cost us tonight," he said.

Despite only scoring four runs, Maddon saw a lot more life to his offense than maybe the scoreboard indicated.

"We only got four runs, but we hit some balls really hard. It was a great first inning. I can't fault the offense, we hit the ball well," he said.

The Tampa Bay bullpen picked up Price after seven innings of work to shut the Twins down for the final two innings. Rays hitters collected double digit hits for the third consecutive game.

Fernando Rodney was asked to close the door in the ninth, which he did for the 20th consecutive time this season, the most in the club history, surpassing Roberto Hernandez (1999) and Rafael Soriano (2010) who both had 19 consecutive saves.

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