ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Milwaukee Brewers managed to cobble together only two runs in their first two games against the Tampa Bay Rays, both losses. Wednesday afternoon's series finale brought a matchup with ace lefty David Price.
That didn't exactly seem like a recipe for success. Didn't matter.
Backup catcher Martin Maldonado drove in a career-high-tying four runs to back up right-hander Yovani Gallardo's seven shutout innings as the Brewers beat the Rays 5-0 at Tropicana Field.
"It always feels good, especially when they're going for the sweep and they have (their) best pitcher on the mound," Maldonado said. "I think it's always good when you can score runs early against that guy."
Not that they needed many with the way Gallardo was pitching. He gave up two hits to start the game then didn't allow another one until there were two outs in the seventh inning.
Coming off 7 2/3 shutout innings on Friday, Gallardo retired 13 Rays hitters in a row at one point Wednesday afternoon. Overall, he stretched his scoreless streak to 16 2/3 innings, and he has only allowed nine hits during that stretch.
Gallardo's effort continued a stretch of impressive work by Milwaukee's starters, who have posted a 1.72 ERA over the last 10 games, with nine quality starts.
"It was definitely a big win," Gallardo said. "We had two tough games yesterday and the day before that, and I was able to make pitches."
Gallardo (6-5, 3.38 ERA) also stole the show from Price, making perhaps his final start with the Rays. The non-waiver trade deadline is Thursday, and Price's name became a constant in industry rumors as the Rays struggled early on this season.
Price toyed with fans around baseball on Wednesday morning, posting on Twitter that, "This is my last start for the Rays...IN JULY!!!"
Whether it was his last start with the Rays, period, remains to be seen.
Price seemed confused after the game, initially expressing his belief that the 4 p.m. ET deadline was Wednesday, not Thursday.
Either way, Price and Rays manager Joe Maddon believe he will be back in Tampa Bay's home clubhouse on Friday.
"Yep, I do," Maddon said. "It takes two to dance, boys."
"Absolutely," Price added.
Price, who entered the day having gone 7-3 with a 1.88 ERA over his previous 11 starts, permitted four runs (three earned) on seven hits and two walks while striking out six over seven innings. Maddon said he pitched well enough to win, but a couple of early walks did him in.
The Brewers got to Price (11-8, 3.11) early, loading the bases with a single and two walks in the second inning. Maldonado lined a 1-0 changeup into center field, giving the Brewers a 2-0 lead.
"I didn't make pitches when I needed to in the second inning," Price said. "Whenever you walk two guys in one inning, you're probably going to give up at least one run, if not more."
Milwaukee tacked on another run in the third inning. First baseman Jonathan Lucroy singled and moved to second when right fielder Ryan Braun reached on an error by Rays shortstop Yunel Escobar. Up came designed hitter Aramis Ramirez, who drove home Lucroy with a single to center.
Maldonado came through again in the sixth, ripping an RBI double to left-center field to put the Brewers up by four runs. He singled in the Brewers' fifth run off reliever Kirby Yates in the eighth inning.
The Brewers finished with nine hits after managing only six in their previous two games combined.
"I thought the at-bats were great," Brewers manager Ron Roenicke said. "I wish I knew why, from game to game, but for some reason today I thought they saw the ball really well."
With the win, the Brewers avoided a series sweep and improved to 60-49. That guarantees the Brewers will remain atop the National League Central heading into this weekend's series against the Cardinals.
The Rays, meanwhile, fell to 53-55, missing a chance to reach .500 for the first time since April 22. They have won 11 of their last 13 games but enter Thursday's day off with uncertainty, not knowing if Price or several other key players will be there when they return Friday.
Even if Price and others are sent elsewhere, Maddon believes the Rays aren't throwing up the white flag.