ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- For David Price, his much-anticipated return to Tropicana Field on Thursday was tough to top.
Price, the former American League Cy Young Award winner, couldn't have done much more, dominating his former Tampa Bay Rays teammates in a one-hit complete game. The Detroit Tigers left-hander gave up one unearned run, never got a three-ball count and retired the final 23 hitters in order.
"It's probably as good as I've pitched in a game that went my way," Price said.
But the emotional reunion didn't go Price's way. Rays right-hander Alex Cobb outdueled Price in a 1-0 Tampa Bay victory in front of 19,189.
"99.99 percent of the time, you win that game," Tigers catcher Alex Avila said. "Unfortunately, today was that .01 percent."
Cobb showed he was more than capable of taking over the Tampa Bay ace role from Price, throwing seven two-hit innings. He has won seven straight decisions, going 7-0 with a 1.99 ERA in his last 10 starts.
"What can I say, man?" Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It really lived up to the billing."
Price said his familiarity with the hitters helped him, making only one mistake.
After a one-out throwing error by Tigers shortstop Eugenio Suarez allowed right fielder Ben Zobrist to reach first, Price gave up an RBI triple to rookie outfielder Brandon Guyer. Price said he threw Guyer a back-door cutter.
"I shouldn't have thrown it," Price said.
The one-run cushion was enough for Cobb, who battled his way out of a two-on, one-out jam in the seventh inning, extending his scoreless streak to 15 1/3 innings. Rookie right fielder Kevin Kiermaier made a diving catch to help preserve the lead in the eighth with the tying run on second base.
"I was just happy to see that go in the glove right there, especially in a big situation late in the game like that," Kiermaier said. "It was a big relief."
Maddon said, "Big, big play by Kiermaier. It could've probably turned the whole thing around."
Price, acquired three weeks ago in a three-team deal, preferred not to pitch against Tampa Bay, where he spent his first seven big-league seasons. He liked how his old walk-up song was played as he took the mound but had to step back after the crowd gave him a standing ovation as he warmed up before the first inning.
"I appreciate it," he said.
The hard part was pitching to longtime friends.
"That was different," Price said. "First time through the lineup was really weird. After that, I felt good."
With the win, the Rays (62-65) avoided a three-game sweep as they try to keep their fleeting playoff hopes alive. They trail the Tigers by seven games for the second American League wild card.
Detroit (68-57) fell 1 1/2 games behind the idle Kansas City Royals for first place in the AL Central.
"Definitely, David deserved everything he got from the crowd and leading up to the game with all the hype," Cobb said. "But once it became game time, facts are we are streaking in the wrong direction a little bit and we definitely needed a win to try to get back up to .500 and to be able to compete for this wild-card spot come September."
Price said he enjoyed the three-game series with the Rays and was glad he got the first meeting out of the way.
"Honestly, that was something I never thought I'd have to do, not pitching against these guys in this ballpark or really pitching against them at any time," Price said.
NOTES: Tigers RHP Justin Verlander (shoulder inflammation) threw a 35-pitch bullpen session Thursday and said he's ready to start during Saturday's doubleheader. ... Tigers manager Brad Ausmus said RHP Bud Farmer will be called up from Triple-A to pitch the other game Saturday. ... Tigers 1B Miguel Cabrera was the designated hitter as a precaution after re-aggravating an old ankle injury Wednesday. Ausmus called it a "small concern."... Rays manager Joe Maddon said C Jose Molina is banged up a bit, otherwise he wanted to use all right-handed hitters against LHP David Price, who was making his first start against his former team since getting traded to Detroit at the deadline.