THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — The more David Price pitches, the more his 2010 performance looks less like a fluke.
Price, the AL starter in last season’s All-Star game, struck out 12 over eight strong innings and Jose Molina hit his first homer of the season to lead the Tampa Bay Rays to their sixth straight win, 7-2 over the Oakland Athletics on Friday night.
The Rays, who are a major league-best 19-8, improved to 13-1 at home and won for the 12th time in 13 games overall.
Price (5-1) threw just 106 pitches while allowing an earned run, three hits and a walk. He is the second AL pitcher to win five games this season, joining teammate James Shields, who got his fifth victory Wednesday.
"I hope (Shields and I) continue to win, that we compete to match each other win for win," said Price, who after going 19-8 in 2010 came in second in the Cy Young voting. "If we’re both winning that means the Rays are winning."
Price also struck out each A’s starter once, including Cuban rookie Yoenis Cespedes twice. Price’s 12 strikeouts were two off the Rays club record of 14 he set in 2011.
"He’s still a young man with a great arm, so we have to take care of him," Rays manager Joe Maddon said of his 26-year-old left-hander. "He’s still learning his craft and look out when he does."
Price also had help defensively, including a diving catch by right fielder Matt Joyce in the third inning. Joyce tracked a ball hit hard by second baseman Jemile Weeks, then dove to his left and slide into the low wall by the Rays bullpen.
"I’m glad I caught it," Joyce said. "It always hurts less when you catch it. . I had the pleasure of making another great catch for him because the last three starts is the probably the best I’ve ever seen Price (pitch)."
Prior to Friday, Price picked up his first win against Texas after throwing six innings. That win came on the heels of complete-game shutout against Anaheim on April 24.
Tyson Ross (1-2) had his second straight rough outing, giving up seven runs on nine hits in 3 1-3 innings. Less than a week ago, Ross gave up nine runs on 11 hits against Baltimore.
"I think they’re the hottest team in baseball right now," Ross said. "I definitely tip my cap to them, but at the same time, I know I didn’t put my best foot forward today and they definitely made me pay."
Molina hit a two-run homer in the Rays’ four-run fourth, while B.J. Upton added back-to-back RBI doubles in the third and fourth innings and also scored twice.
Luke Scott also hit a two-run double in the third to give him a team-high 21 RBIs.
"I think that some time in his life Luke can be a hitting coach," Maddon said. "As the DH, we talk a lot in the dugout and just his outlook on seeing pitches is something everyone can learn from."
The A’s took a brief 1-0 lead in the second inning when former Ray Johnny Gomes doubled and then scored on a double by Kurt Suzuki. Cliff Pennington added a solo homer off reliever Brandon Gomes in the ninth.
Joel Peralta picked up his second save this season when he came on in the ninth to get the Rays out of a two-out, bases-loaded jam after Gomes gave up a single, a hit batter and a walk.
Despite the Rays missing star third baseman Evan Longoria, who is out up to two months with a partial torn hamstring, Tampa Bay has been nearly unbeatable at Tropicana Field, where they extended their home winning streak to 10 — one shy of club record set in 2008.
The last time Tampa Bay lost at home was April 12 to Detroit, and since 2008, the Rays are 218-120, which is the best home record in that span, topping New York at 216-121.
"I’m sure if you look through the annals of baseball that a lot of championship teams will say that it different guy that helped us win every night," Maddon said. "And I kind of like the sound of that."
Notes: A’s OF Coco Crisp was placed on the 15-day disabled list with an inner-ear infection. The move is retroactive to May 3. Oakland recalled OF Michael Taylor from Triple-A affiliate Sacramento to replace Crisp. Taylor started in LF on Friday. . A hit by Seattle C Jesus Montero in Wednesday’s game was changed to an error by Rays SS Sean Rodriguez. As a result, Shields’ ERA drops from 3.70 to 3.05. . Upton returned to the lineup Friday after sitting out a game due to tightness in his right quad. . The Rays promoted OF Josh Sale from extended spring training to Single-A Bowling Green. … Rays manager Joe Maddon used a lineup selected by the Tampa Chamber of Commerce. . Maddon will manage his 1,000th game for the Rays on Saturday. He’s 514-485. The Rays won 518 games before Maddon took over in 2006. … Maddon on New York closer Mariano Rivera’s injury: "I think he’s the player most responsible for their success over the last 15 years. . I hope he doesn’t go out like that." . Friday’s announced attendance was 18,799.