ST. PETERSBURG -- Surely the Rays' half of the seventh inning would be classified as a velvet Elvis by most baseball purists, but the end result produced a Rays masterpiece in a 5-3 win over the Red Sox on Saturday night at Tropicana Field with 27,311 watching.
In the process, David Price picked up his American League-leading 12th win of the season with 7 1/3 solid innings as the Rays moved to 46-42, keeping them 8 1/2 games behind the AL East-leading Yankees.
Generating offense of any kind has been a difficult task for the Rays all season, and particularly of late, which has prompted team meetings, fundamental drills and deep discussions about quality at-bats. All of the energy directed to that pursuit seemed to pay off Saturday night.
Trailing, 3-2, the Rays got busy in the bottom of the seventh, sending six batters to the plate without registering an official at-bat before Carlos Pena struck out to end the inning. Despite the fact they did not get a single base hit in the inning, the Rays managed to score two runs to take a 4-3 lead.
"I think it was 1910 might have been the last time that occurred," said Rays manager Joe Maddon when talking about the odd nature of the seventh. "Again, we've been talking about it. We have to work better at-bats. We have to move baserunners. We have to accept our walks. It's more than just about getting hits, sometimes it's about not making outs."
Luke Scott drew a leadoff walk from Clay Buchholz to start the seventh.
"Got behind Scott, still trying to find the changeup at that point in the game and I spiked a couple of them," Buccholz said. "It just is what it is -- can't give free baserunners to a team like this."
Buchholz hit the next batter, Jeff Keppinger, before Desmond Jennings sacrificed the runners into scoring position.
Matt Albers took over for Buchholz at that point, prompting Maddon to call on Hideki Matsui to pinch-hit for Jose Molina. Albers intentionally walked Matsui to load the bases for pinch-hitter Jose Lobaton, who walked to force home the tying run.
Elliot Johnson followed with a sacrifice fly to deep center field that allowed Keppinger to score the go-ahead run.
When asked what he would call the comeback with no official at-bats, Johnson replied: "Rays baseball ... winning baseball, taking what they give you, any of those cliches."
Saturday night's contest offered more than the suggestion that runs would be difficult to come by with Price starting against Buchholz. The pair entered the game with 19 wins between them, and on any given night, either could show up to the ballpark with no-hit stuff. From the outset, both appeared up to the task.
"Buchholz was really good tonight," Maddon said. "I thought he was really good."
"I really thought David had the ability or stuff tonight to throw a shutout," Maddon said. "He kind of looked that way."
Heading into the sixth, the only blemish on Price's line happened in the fourth with two outs and a runner aboard when Will Middlebrooks hit an 0-2 offering into the left-center-field stands for his 11th home run of the season, giving the Red Sox a 2-1 lead.
Ben Zobrist saved a run in the fifth after the Red Sox loaded the bases with one out. Pedro Ciriaco hit a liner to Zobrist in right field, and he hauled in the drive before throwing a strike to Molina, who blocked Kelly Shoppach at the plate, tagging out the former Ray to complete the double play.
"That was huge," Price said. "It's Molina putting his body on the line for his team. That's awesome. Zo couldn't have made a better throw -- it was a perfect one-hop right there to him, so it couldn't have been any better. It probably helped us that Shoppach was at third. He's probably one of the slower guys on their team as well. It worked out well for us."
But with the score tied at 2, Price gave a run back in the sixth. Cody Ross bluffed like he was running home from third base, kicking up dust along the third-base line. Price threw behind the runner to Keppinger at third, but the throw arrived off target and Ross strolled home to put the Red Sox up, 3-2.
"David's out of the windup and actually did everything right," Maddon said. "He stepped off properly, and I really believe Ross would have been out at third base if he had just made an accurate throw. ... He still maintained his composure, got us deeper into the game."
The Red Sox threatened in the eighth. Jacoby Ellsbury led off with a double, and one out later, David Ortiz walked to chase Price. Joel Peralta took over and retired Ross and Middlebrooks on flyouts to center to end the threat.
B.J. Upton added his eighth home run of the season in the eighth to push the Rays' lead to 5-3.
Fernando Rodney pitched a scoreless ninth to preserve the win and pick up his 26th save of the season.
"We just have got to try and find a way," Jennings said. "It came down to some little stuff, little things that we did. Price went out and pitched real good for us, too. It was good for him to get that win. You just gotta find a way to score some runs, and tonight we did it."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.