HOUSTON -- Tampa Bay left-hander David Price has a Cy Young Award on his mantle and has enjoyed a career of exceptional performances, so when he approached hyperbole analyzing his outing Tuesday night, it struck an ominous tone for potential foes the remainder of the season.
Price made his return from the 15-day disabled list a spectacular one, pitching seven shutout innings in the Tampa Bay Rays' 8-0 victory over the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Price (2-4) was on the DL for 47 days with a left triceps strain. His last start came May 15 against the Boston Red Sox. In May, Price allowed 10 earned runs over 17 innings, losing twice while posting a 5.29 ERA.
His return to optimal health signaled a return to utter dominance.
"That's probably the best I've felt on a baseball field maybe in my entire life, honestly," Price said. "I felt like that's the most control I've had of a baseball game in a very long time. I think that was better than I threw the ball really at any point last year (when he claimed Cy Young honors). So I felt good."
Price needed just 70 pitches to complete seven innings, allowing three singles while striking out 10. He had eight called third strikes and did not allow a runner into scoring position. Price retired his last eight batters while making his second career start against Houston (30-54).
Rays center fielder Desmond Jennings finished 3-for-5 with four RBIs as Tampa Bay (45-39) saddled Houston with its second consecutive shutout loss. The Astros also suffered back-to-back shutouts on April 2-3 when Yu Darvish and Alexi Ogando, of the Texas Rangers, blanked them.
"I'm not an excuse-maker, but David Price was pretty good tonight," Astros manager Bo Porter said. "He had his ace stuff. When a guy wins a Cy Young, and he dominates throughout his career the way he has, sometimes you just have to tip your cap. This was one of those nights where we faced a really good guy who had his ace stuff. He took it to us."
Price faced the minimum number of batters through four innings despite allowing a leadoff single to J.D. Martinez in the second and a two-out infield single to Jimmy Paredes in the bottom of the third.
Martinez was retired when Brandon Barnes rolled into an inning-ending double play, Paredes after he was caught in a rundown between first and second base, with second baseman Ben Zobrist applying the tag.
"His strike throwing was great, his stuff was really, really good," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "The whole attitude with how he pitched today was spectacular. I loved the focus from the first pitch. He wasn't over-amped. I kept talking about that. I thought he was under control emotionally and just went out there and did what he wanted to do well. He executed, he was on top of his game. It was really fun to watch."
Conversely, Astros left-hander Erik Bedard (3-4) was the picture of inefficiency, requiring 42 pitches to get through his first two innings while surrendering a run-scoring, first-inning sacrifice fly to Wil Myers. In the fourth, the Rays stretched their lead to 3-0 when Jennings slapped a two-run, two-out single to right field.
In the sixth, Jennings greeted right-handed reliever Josh Fields with a two-run homer to left. Bedard, pulled prior to Jennings' at-bat, allowed four runs on six hits and a season-high six walks over 5 1/3 innings.
Given the discipline the Rays showcased offensively, Bedard didn't help his cause by failing to command the strike zone.
"Six walks? I didn't even know I had six," Bedard said. "Yeah, that's a little too many. I just tried to throw strikes, but it didn't work really good today. I'll just work on it in the bullpen and come back the next start.
"They're really patient, and they hit lefties good. I was trying to hit my locations and do my best to get out of it."
NOTES: The Astros recalled LHP Brett Oberholtzer from Triple-A Oklahoma City, filling the roster spot of RHP Hector Ambriz, who was demoted to the RedHawks. Ambriz lost his job as the setup man for closer Jose Veras and allowed three runs, four hits and two walks on Monday night. ... The Rays' 7-8-9 hitters -- INF Ryan Roberts, C Jose Lobaton and RF Sam Fuld -- each went 3-for-5 on Monday night, marking the first time in Tampa Bay history the 7-8-9 hitters each had three or more hits.