ST. PETERSBURG, Florida — David Price felt he's never pitched better. He still lost.
Price (12-9) retired the next 23 batters after Brandon Guyer's hit gave Alex Cobb all the support he needed. Price never even went to a three-ball count in the superb outing.
"I definitely threw the ball well enough to win, but (Cobb) threw the ball even better," Price said. "I knew which pitches I could throw and which pitches I shouldn't throw. I shouldn't throw Brandon Guyer a back-door cutter and I did, and it was a good pitch and he hit it well."
Cobb (9-6) allowed two hits, walked two and struck out six over seven innings, improving to 7-0 in his last 10 starts. After Brad Boxberger worked out of an eighth-inning jam, Jake McGee got three outs for his 14th save and completed a four-hitter.
"You're taking about almost a no-hitter," Torii Hunter said of Price's effort. "I wish we would have scored at least one run. It's really frustrating. Of course it's a good game both ways, a good pitchers' duel, but at least one run."
Said Tiger manager Brad Ausmus: "You really could make the argument he pitched better than the winning pitcher despite the fact that Cobb pitched outstanding as well."
Price got a standing ovation while taking his warmup throws before the bottom of the first. The left-hander, taken first overall by Tampa Bay in the 2007 draft, was the 2012 AL Cy Young Award winner.
Price said he was not aware that he never a three-ball count.
"That's cool," he said. "We commanded the strike zone today, for the most part. We got ahead, and that's what you've got to do."
The pitch to Guyer, he said, was "a great pitch to the wrong hitter."
Alex Avila walked and Suarez singled to open the third for Detroit, but Cobb got a double-play grounder from Davis and Ian Kinsler's grounder. The Tigers also failed to score in the seventh when J.D. Martinez struck out and Nick Castellanos hit a flyball with runners on second and third.
Tigers: Miguel Cabrera was the DH one day after aggravating an old right ankle injury sliding at home plate Wednesday night. "Generally speaking he's fine," Ausmus said. ... RHP Justin Verlander (sore right shoulder) threw a light bullpen with "no issues" and is scheduled to start one game in Saturday's doubleheader at Minnesota. He walked into Ausmus' office after the mound session and high-fived the manager.
Rays: C Ryan Hanigan (oblique) is scheduled to play for Class-A Charlotte Friday.
Tigers: Detroit heads to Minnesota for a four-game series that begins Friday night.
Rays: Tampa Bay opens a seven-game, two-city road trip Friday night against AL East-rival Toronto.
Price pitched his 11th complete game, first with the Tigers. ... His nine strikeouts gave him a major league-leading 221 for the season, a new career high. ... The lefty has thrown 100 or more pitches in 23 straight starts.