ST. PETERSBURG -- Considering how well he's pitched this year, there really wasn't any surprise when Rays starting pitcher David Price plowed through the Royals' lineup.
What threw the Tampa Bay off, though, was an almost equally stellar night from Kansas City's Luke Hochevar, despite his 5.24 ERA entering Tuesday's matchup.
But the game came down to the bullpens with the Royals breaking through against the Rays' Joel Peralta in the top of the 10th and holding serve for a 1-0 win at Tropicana Field. The Rays have now lost three times by that same score, their most in a season.
"Those 1-0 losses are kicking our butt a little bit, that really shouldn't happen," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We've got to figure out a way to score one run somehow in nine innings. It's just a very unfortunate loss."
Price exited after eight scoreless innings in which he allowed just three hits to go with eight strikeouts in his bid for a Major League-leading 17th win. Instead, for the second time in four starts, Price went eight innings without allowing a run in a no-decision, though he lowered his already league-leading ERA to 2.28.
"We played well, they played well, we just didn't hit enough," Price said. "That's all it is, that's fine. We've been swinging the bats extremely well the last two weeks, and we're gonna come back [Wednesday] and hopefully swing well again."
Hochevar allowed one hit over eight innings with three walks and a season-high 10 strikeouts in a no-decision, which he said didn't bother him.
"If the team doesn't click, you don't go anywhere. That's why we play the game, to experience something greater than ourselves and get to a playoff or something like that," Hochevar said. "If you get a 'W,' you get a 'W,' it doesn't matter who wins it. And, shoot, it was Kelvin Herrera's first win of his big league career."
Hochevar's start was statistically his best since June 25, which was also against the Rays. In that matchup, he threw a shutout, but Carlos Pena thought he had even better stuff on Tuesday.
"We got a lot of swing-and-misses underneath the ball today just because of how much, kind of, rise effect he had on [his fastball]," Pena said. "I thought he was locating it well, and also the offspeed pitches. That differential, that 94 mph fastball and he throws a 76 mph curveball, the difference is huge.
The loss snapped the Rays' five-game winning streak, though it's no fault to the pitching that's allowed one or fewer runs in 14 of the last 27 games.
In the end, it all came down to the Rays' inability to hit Royals pitching, unable to help their own pitchers like they had during their winning streak. The club mustered just two hits on the night and struck out 11 times.
Besides a leadoff double in the third inning by Luke Scott, who was activated from the disabled list earlier in the day, there wasn't much excitement from either team early on. Price and Hochevar each allowed a single hit through the first five innings with a combined 12 strikeouts between them.
Price finally allowed his second hit in the top of the sixth, but the Royals couldn't do anything with it, already having two outs against them. Hochevar didn't flinch in the bottom of the inning either, picking up another quick pair of outs but walked Jennings. A strikeout by birthday boy B.J. Upton ended any chance the Rays had.
After an uneventful seventh, the Rays made defensive changes prior to the eighth, electing to take Evan Longoria, who started at third base, out of the game. Ryan Roberts moved to third, Ben Zobrist to second and Elliot Johnson entered at short. Price struck out the first two hitters he faced, but Eric Hosmer singled and stole second to put pressure on the lefty. Price didn't fought through it, striking out Johnny Giavotella to end the frame.
Maddon said prior to the game that he probably wouldn't let Longoria, who is still recovering from a partially torn hamstring, play the entire game. Longoria is likely to be in the lineup on Wednesday, but it's unclear whether it will be at third base or as a designated hitter.
Both teams turned to their bullpens in the ninth with each surviving the inning. Peralta came undone when Jeff Francoeur knocked a single and reached second on a throwing error by Zobrist that Pena was unable to handle. A two-out single by Hosmer was the difference.
"I thought he had a shot and I think he thought he had a shot," Maddon said of Zobrist's error. "I'm good with it."
Greg Zeck is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.