It became the David Price Show after the first inning, after the Tampa Bay Rays sent 10 batters to the plate and scored enough runs to win each of their previous three games.
There was Price setting down the Baltimore Orioles one after the other and Matt Joyce's spectacular leaping, diving catch in right-center field to end the fourth inning that had those at Tropicana Field wondering if they were witnessing something more magical than a just a win.
But a one-out single in the fifth inning by Baltimore catcher Matt Wieters ended the perfect game and returned the focus to what the Rays were truly after – a victory.
Tampa Bay earned that, beating Baltimore, 5-0, in front of 17,224 to snap a three-game losing streak and take sole possession of first place from the Orioles, who have now lost a season-high six straight.
Price, making the 100th start of his career, pitched into the eighth inning. It was the sixth straight outing of at least seven innings – the longest such streak of his career – and his seventh victory of the season, tying for the league lead. Pitching primarily with his fastball, he allowed three hits, matching his low for the season.
"He's been outstanding," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "The fastball has been electric and alive. I don't think he has been throwing his other pitches as much as relying primarily on his fastball, which I love when he does that. He's pretty much mirroring more closely what he had done in what should have been his Cy Young Award year (in 2010)."
Price, who was basically a fastball pitcher while winning 19 games in 2010, has expanded his repertoire. But he didn't get on this roll until he decided to use his other pitches to enhance his fastball.
He calls it the maturation of a young pitcher.
Everyone else around the team calls it 7-3 with a 2.44 ERA.
"I think he's really learning what he's capable of, and he's growing as a pitcher. It's fun to watch, especially from the defensive part and not have to face him," Joyce said. "Obviously everybody knows that David is one of the most talented pitchers in the game. You've seen it here the last four or five starts. He's fun to go and play behind. You know he's going to attack the hitters."
As for Price, well, he gave credit to those around him.
"The offense made it a lot easier for me going out there getting five runs in the first," he said. "That takes a lot of pressure off our defense, that takes a lot of pressure off our offense, that takes a lot of pressure off me. That's always welcomed."
The Rays scored a total of six runs while being swept in three-game series by the Chicago White Sox to start this homestand. They scored five times in the first on five hits off Baltimore starter Wei-Yin Chen.
Carlos Peña began the inning with a double and moved to third on a wild pitch. But Peña was thrown out at the plate while trying to score on B.J. Upton's grounder to short. Joyce followed with a single to center and Ben Zobrist beat out a bunt to load the bases. Luke Scott singled home two runs, and Sean Rodriguez drove in another with a sacrifice bunt.
Hideki Matsui capped the inning with a long home run down the right field line that landed near the back wall. It was the second homer for Matsui in his three games as a Ray and it gave Price a 5-0 lead.
The Orioles loaded the bases twice and couldn't score. The first time was in the sixth inning when a heads up play by Upton and some poor base running by Steve Tolleson, who was on first base, turned what looked like a sacrifice fly into an inning-ending 8-6 double play.
Fernando Rodney came on with the bases loaded and one out in the ninth and got the final two outs for his 17th save.
"It was big," Price said of the win. "We've been scuffling a little bit. For us to come out and hit the way we did, especially in the first inning, and play some good defense and get a win puts a good taste back in our mouths."