ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — David Price played seven seasons at Tropicana Field and knew the Tampa Bay Rays had a plastic white table on the other side of the short fence adjacent to the foul pole in left field.
So as he watched teammate Andrew Benintendi launch himself over that wall in pursuit of a sure home run off the bat of Steven Souza Jr. in the eighth inning on Monday night, Price listened as closely as he would.
“I heard a noise and I thought the baseball hit that table,” he said. “But he caught it. I couldn’t believe it.”
Price applauded into his glove and, after the final out of the inning, waited on the field for Benintendi to jog in.
“Thank you,” he told the rookie.
Benintendi’s catch wasn’t a game-saver as the Red Sox beat the Rays, 6-2. But for Price, it may as well have been.
The lefthander had a 3-0 lead at the time with a runner on first and no outs. If that ball clears the fence, a relief pitcher is coming and maybe the Red Sox aren’t tied for first place now.
“Spending those seven years here, I didn’t see that catch too many times,” Price said. “That doesn’t happen a whole lot. That was huge.”
Benintendi could not recall robbing a home run before and certainly not leaping over a fence like that.
“No, that was the first time,” he said. “I think that’s the best catch I’ve made. I’ve never had really an opportunity to take one back.”
Watch: Andrew Benintendi’s catch
Benintendi actually started the game in center field. He shifted to left field after Jackie Bradley Jr. entered the game to run for Chris Young in the top of the inning.
Because it was Benintendi’s first time at Tropicana Field, a park with plenty of quirks, the rookie took fly balls in spots before the game. But that wasn’t a play he could practice.
“I saw the wall out of the corner of my eye. I just timed up my jump,” Benintendi said. “I was more concerned with the lights.”
Manager John Farrell pointed out that being lefthanded was an advantage for Benintendi, as he was able to extend a bit farther with his right hand and get his glove to the ball as he ran at the wall.
“A spectacular catch,” Farrell said. “That’s a highlight-reel play at a pivotal time of the game.”
Souza was sure the ball was out and had started his home-run trot.
“Pretty stunned,” he said. “That was an unbelievable play. He ran a long way, was at full speed and then to go over and hold onto the ball was pretty impressive.”
Benintendi also drove in a run with a sacrifice fly. The 22-year-old outfielder has hit .306 with an .821 OPS since being called up Aug. 2.
“He’s handled things very evenly,” Farrell said. “He’s not gotten too high. He’s not let the atmosphere cause him to speed up the at-bats.”
At 70-54, the Red Sox tied the idle Blue Jays for first place in the American League East with 38 games left to play. The Sox have won 9 of 11 and are 6-2 on their 11-game road trip with three more to play against the last-place Rays.
Price (12-8) allowed two hits, walked two, and struck out eight in one of his best starts of the season. He dropped his earned run average to 4.00, the lowest it has been since he allowed two runs over six innings on Opening Day.
“[The Rays] are a tough team for me to pitch against. It doesn’t matter if it’s here or on the road, it’s just tough. So that was good,” Price said.
Price retired the first nine batters he faced before Logan Forsythe singled in the fourth inning. He was thrown out stealing second.
Matt Duffy (fifth inning) and Forsythe (sixth inning) drew walks but didn’t advance.
Tim Beckham singled to start the eighth inning. With Matt Barnes warming up and Price at 107 pitches, that’s when Souza hammered a changeup down the line. But Benintendi saved him.
Price is 3-1 with a 2.36 ERA in his last six starts. After an up-and-season, he is pitching his best when it counts most.
“I always want to go a good way [into games],” he said. “Good things aren’t always going to happen. But today I had a lot of good things happen.”
Rays rookie Blake Snell allowed two runs over 3⅔ innings, throwing 94 pitches. Young, in his first game after two months on the disabled list, had an RBI double in the fourth inning before Benintendi’s sac fly.
Young, out with a right hamstring tear, could be a significant addition to the roster given his production against lefthanders.
“I’ve been looking forward to this day and being back. The majority of the time I was with the team and it helped the time go by fast,” Young said before the game.
“Being back now, it feels like I never left. Hopefully the two months won’t show up.”
Hanley Ramirez added a sacrifice fly in the seventh inning. The Sox opened up the game up in the ninth. Xander Bogaerts had a two-run homer before Mookie Betts singled, Ramirez doubled, and Sandy Leon knocked in a run with a groundout.