ST. PETERSBURG -- David Price returned to Tropicana Field on Thursday and pitched like David Price. Fortunately for the Rays, Alex Cobb pitched like Alex Cobb in a 1-0 win over the Tigers.
"Really lived up to the billing, or the advertising prior to the game," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It just happened we won. "... I talk about it all the time. In order to beat a good pitcher, you have to outpitch him. In a very small and perverse way, we did."
The Rays (62-65) broke a four-game losing streak while dodging a three-game sweep in this series and recording their American League-leading 16th shutout of the season. After the game, the team headed to Toronto for a three-game weekend series before going to Baltimore to play a four-game set.
For the first time in Price's Major League career, he stood on the mound at Tropicana Field wearing the uniform of an opposing team. And his former teammates managed to scratch out a run against him in the first inning when Ben Zobrist reached on a throwing error by Eugenio Suarez and scored on Brandon Guyer's one-out triple.
"That at-bat, I got to two strikes," Guyer said. "When I get to two strikes, I try to just spread out and watch the ball travel. And, if I get beat in, I get beat in. I just wanted to let the ball get there. If I don't have that approach, I probably roll over on that cutter, but I let it get deep and took it the other way."
In true Price fashion, he limited the damage.
First, Price struck out Evan Longoria swinging before striking out Wil Myers looking to end the threat.
"I was really looking add-on [runs] right there," Maddon said. "Runner on third, one out, four-five coming up, just because you know how tough David can be. And he definitely indicated that after we scored that run."
Price did not allow a baserunner after Guyer's triple, retiring the final 23 batters he faced.
"It's weird, I've never seen a win like that," Guyer said. "But when you've got a pitcher like Cobb pitching like he did, sometimes one run's all that matters. He pitched a great game. I'm glad I could get a big hit when the team needed it. But like I said, without Cobb doing what he did, it wouldn't have mattered. So hat's off to him."
Cobb posted six scoreless innings before showing everyone that Price wasn't the only escape artist in the building on Thursday. His rabbit-out-of the-hat moment came when Torii Hunter doubled to open the seventh and went to third on Miguel Cabrera's groundout. After intentionally walking Victor Martinez, Cobb struck out J.D. Martinez swinging before retiring Nick Castellanos on a flyout to center field to end the threat.
Cobb allowed no runs on two hits and two walks, while striking out six in seven innings to earn his ninth win of the season at the expense of his good friend, Price.
"Throughout the course of the game, I've got one run that I've got to protect as much as I can and that's all my focus," Cobb said. "Once you take a step back, you're removed from the game, you watch [Price] go back out there for the eighth and you just kind of laugh a little bit at the situation that's actually taking place.
"That's who David is. He's one of the best and the performance you saw on the field is awesome, but he'll always be remembered in this clubhouse for being the best teammate who has ever worn a Rays uniform for us."
Brad Boxberger started the eighth for the Rays and surrendered a one-out double to Suarez before Kevin Kiermaier made the play of the game.
On Tuesday night, the right-fielder made a costly miss while making a diving attempt in the 11th inning of a loss to the Tigers. That didn't stop him from going for it again on Thursday, when Rajai Davis hit a drive to shallow right. Just when the ball appeared like it would land and drive home the tying run, Kiermaier made the diving catch.
"I saw it in the air and I got a good read on it," Kiermaier said. "Nothing changed, really, this one just went in the glove, thankfully. You know, I'm willing to put my body on the line to help this team out and that's what I did right there."
Boxberger then struck out Ian Kinsler for the third out. Jake McGee pitched a scoreless ninth to pick up his 14th save of the season.
Price took his ninth loss of the season despite pitching a complete game, earning a nice ovation when he left the field. He allowed that his performance was as good of a game as he's pitched in his career.
"It's the least amount of hits I've ever given up," Price said. "We commanded the strike zone today for the most part, we were ahead and when we weren't ahead, we made pitches."
Maddon called Thursday's game "a game that we needed to win and we did." With 35 games remaining in the regular season, Maddon was asked what his team needed to do to remain in the hunt for a playoff spot.
"Two things," Maddon said. "Offensively, become a little more consistent scoring runs. And bullpen-wise, thicken it up. We can't rely on a couple of guys all the time. Get everybody in the mix. It has to work. And offensively, we have to be able to hit through some of our mistakes."
On Thursday, one hit proved sufficient.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.