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HOU@TB: Price fans his 12th to escape a tight spot

ST. PETERSBURG -- David Price dominated the Astros in every way a pitcher can Friday night. But he committed the mortal sin of Rays starters these days: He made one mistake.

The way the Rays' bats are operating, one mistake is enough. And Price's proved to be the difference in the Rays' 3-1 loss to the Astros.

The Rays (29-46) maintained their lock on last place in the American League East and were guaranteed to finish the night with the worst record in the Major Leagues.

Price started for the Rays and chalked up his 1,000th career strikeout when he caught Chris Carter looking for the first out in the second.

Price reached another plateau in the third when he surrendered his 16th home run of the season, a blast off the "D" ring by George Springer, that gave the Astros a 2-0 lead. Price allowed 16 home runs during his 2012 Cy Young season and just 16 in 2013 as well.

Springer's ball hugged a path along the left-field line before landing fair in the seats.

"I was saying to myself, 'Stay fair, ball,' and it ended up staying fair because I was low out in the front of it and just didn't want to hook it," Springer said.

When asked where he wanted to throw the changeup to Springer and where did it end up, Price said: "Not where it was, and probably down and away."

Price allowed just the two runs on six hits and three walks while striking out 12 in eight innings, but he came away with his seventh loss of the season.

"When you don't hit, you can't cover," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "He was great. ... Great stuff all night long."

When asked about taking the loss after just one mistake, Price replied: "If we gotta go nine scoreless innings to win a game, that's not the way you want to do it."

Price established a club record by posting a fourth consecutive game with at least 10 strikeouts. Boston's Jon Lester was the most recent Major League pitcher to turn the trick (2010).

Maddon has often noted that not cashing in on a quality pitching performance is a "mortal sin." He smiled when asked if Friday night's game fell into that category.

"We've committed many this year," Maddon said. "We're going to need a special audience with the new pope in order to cleanse our souls and be able to move on. Our offensive souls. They have not been very offensive in certain ways, and they've been very offensive in others. The guys are working. The effort is there. The performance is not. We have to keep pushing until it comes back to us."

The Rays' offense could not solve the mystery of Astros starter Jarred Cosart, who picked up his second win against the Rays in less than a week.

The Rays saw an opportunity go by the wayside when Jose Molina singled to start the eighth. Pinch-runner Sean Rodriguez then got thrown out at second trying to advance after Cosart bounced a pitch to catcher Juan Castro.

"Ball in the dirt," Maddon said. "That's something right there. You have to be safe. It's not a maybe play."

Jonathan Villar added a solo home run off Juan Carlos Oviedo in the ninth to push the Astros' lead to 3-0 before the Rays threatened in the bottom of the inning.

Evan Longoria led off by hitting a ground ball to short against Chad Qualls. Villar booted the chance, and James Loney followed with a single to left. One out later, pinch-hitter Ben Zobrist hit into a fielder's choice to put runners at the corners with two outs for Yunel Escobar, who singled to right to score Longoria. Ryan Hanigan then struck out swinging to end the threat, and the game.

Escobar's single prevented the Rays from experiencing their 12th shutout of the season. Before Escobar's hit, the Rays were 0-for-6 on the night with runners in scoring position. They are 2-for-24 with RISP over the past three games. Escobar has both of the hits.

"Again, not a bad baseball game, just did not get any hits," Maddon said.

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