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HOU@TB: Price fans 12 over eight strong innings

As the Rays continue to struggle, trade speculation involving David Price increases as the July 31 Trade Deadline draws near.

"I thought that was the case last year, in 2013," Price said. "I thought that was my last start here."

Despite the rumors, Price has stayed consistent. His manager, Joe Maddon, believes he should be an All-Star, because his record, 5-7, is not indicative of his performance. He leads the Majors in strikeouts (133) and is carrying a 3.81 ERA.

Price's next challenge will be to help the Rays avoid being swept by the Pirates, who have won five of their last six games and are over .500 for the first time since April 14.

Pittsburgh will send starter Charlie Morton to the mound, a sinkerball pitcher who will aim to take advantage of the Rays' tendency to ground into double plays.

Tampa Bay had bounced into 73 double plays, which ties the club with Texas for the most in the Majors.

"Well, I hope so, yeah, but the way you do that, you induce ground balls, is you make good pitches," Morton said. "So, yeah, I'm gonna have to make good pitches -- and if I get into situations where we have a guy on first, trying to turn two, or just guys on base, just like anything else, I'll just try to execute."

Pirates: Walker activated from DL
Neil Walker went 0-for-3 with an RBI on a sacrifice fly in his first start since returning from the disabled list on Tuesday.

Walker was batting .280 with 11 home runs and 35 RBIs before he needed an appendectomy that landed him on the DL.

The Pirates sent outfielder Jose Tabata to Triple-A Indianapolis. He had seen his playing time reduced recently with the emergence of Gregory Polanco and Josh Harrison.

"[Tabata] knows he needs to play; he wants to play. As I encouraged him, this is a challenge," manager Clint Hurdle said. "He's been a helpful player while he was here. The role that he was given, he performed in a very professional matter. This is an opportunity, as it is, to go play, get more regular reps, get more at-bats."

Rays: Ramos' wife expecting
Rays left-hander Cesar Ramos could be headed for paternity leave at any moment to be with his wife, Melanie, whose due date is Thursday.

Ramos tossed 2 1/3 perfect frames during Monday's game against the Pirates, striking out four, and he is 2-3 with a 3.81 ERA in 54 1/3 innings this season.

"The cigars are ready," Maddon said. "... We've already talked [a what-if plan] through. ... But if he's unavailable, we're going to have to have somebody ready to take his place in Baltimore.

Worth noting
• Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said rehabbing starter Gerrit Cole (right shoulder fatigue) felt fine after throwing a six-inning, 84-pitch simulated game Monday afternoon at Tropicana Field.

• With a walk to lead off the game Tuesday, Pirates rookie outfielder Gregory Polanco extended his career-opening streak of reaching base safely to 13 games.

• Rays infielder Cole Figueroa was recalled from Triple-A Durham to replace outfielder/infielder Jerry Sands, who went on the disabled list with a strained tendon in his left wrist on Monday. Maddon said Figueroa will give the Rays additional flexibility in the field and that he will likely get a few starts, possibly even Wednesday.

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