WASHINGTON—Carlos Pena hit a two-run homer and David Price bounced back from his worst start of the season to pitch seven strong innings, leading the Tampa Bay Rays to a 5-4 victory over the Washington Nationals on Tuesday night.
Price (9-4) gave up four runs on six hits. He struck out four and walked one to help Tampa Bay win for the third time in four games. His last time out against the Mets, Price gave up seven runs in five innings.
Rays reliever Joel Peralta was ejected from the game in the eighth inning without throwing a pitch after the umpires found a foreign substance on his glove. Fernando Rodney pitched the ninth inning for his 20th save.
Ian Desmond hit his career-best 11th home run and Michael Morse hit his first homer of the season as the Nationals lost their fourth in a row, one shy of their season-long slide.
Nationals starter Chien-Ming Wang (2-3) struggled from the start. He gave up singles to the game's first three batters, with the third by B.J. Upton scoring the Rays' first run.
The Nationals tied the game in the bottom of the inning. Morse grounded to third with two outs, but Pena at first base couldn't handle the bounced throw from Will Ryhmes and Ryan Zimmerman scored on the error.
Washington briefly took a 2-1 lead in the top of the second on Desmond's homer before Tampa Bay broke the game open with four runs in the third.
Pena's two-run homer to center kicked off the Rays' big inning. With two outs and two on Elliot Johnson nearly outdid Pena, missing a homer to the left-center gap by about a foot. Instead, he ended up with a two-run triple.
Wang was pulled in the fourth inning after giving up five runs on seven hits. Reliever Ross Detwiler — who opened the year as the Nationals' fifth starter — came on and retired the first nine batters he faced before hitting Pena on the elbow in the seventh. That was the only baserunner Detwiler allowed in 3 2/3 innings, striking out three.
Morse had been 1 for 9 in his previous two games, and Nationals manager Davey Johnson revealed before Tuesday's game that Morse had asked to be moved down in the lineup Sunday. Johnson refused, telling him "I'm not worried," and Morse was 2 for 4 with a single and his two-run homer in the sixth inning from the cleanup spot against Tampa Bay.
NOTES: Rays OF Matt Joyce left the game in the fifth inning with back tightness. ... Tampa Bay will place RHP Jeremy Hellickson on the 15-day DL and recall RHP Chris Archer from Triple-A Durham to start his major league debut Wednesday. ... The Rays recalled OF Rich Thompson from Durham. ... Nationals RHPs Henry Rodriguez (right index finger) and Cole Kimball (right shoulder) started rehab assignments Tuesday. Rodriguez pitched for Triple-A Syracuse, and Kimball's assignment was with the rookie-level Gulf Coast League affiliate. ... The Nationals will make up their postponed June 1 rainout with the Braves as part of a day-night doubleheader on July 21.