WASHINGTON -- Aside from the ejection of Joel Peralta, the Rays' 5-4 win over the Nationals provided just what the doctor ordered for starting a nine-game, three-city road trip.
Particularly given the fact they will be facing hard-throwing Stephen Strasburg on Wednesday night when they'll likely be seeing 100-mph fastballs in 100-degree heat.
"That [win] was good for us as a club," said David Price, who held the Nationals to three earned runs in seven innings to pick up his American League-leading ninth win. "We need to come in here and get a win. ... That was big for us knowing we get Strasburg tomorrow. We can set our mindset on him now."
Price set the tone, looking like a different pitcher than the one who showed in his last outing agains the Mets on Wednesday, when he allowed seven runs in five innings.
"I felt like it was just a couple of bad breaks against the Mets," Price said. "I was throwing the ball extremely well the first couple of innings. I guess the first four, then that fifth and sixth they sped up. I had a couple of hits fall in. A couple of ground balls get through. And next thing you know, I give up seven. So it was big for me to come out here. It was good for my confidence and it was good for our confidence as well."
Price allowed an unearned run in the first and three additional runs via Ian Desmond's solo shot in the second and Michael Morse's two-run blast in the sixth.
"That's a good team," Price said. "They've got some good right-handed bats in that lineup. You know, Morse was one of my favorite players. And I have really enjoyed watching him, what he did last year for these guys. He's a good hitter. He hit a good fastball in right back at my face [for a single] and then he took one that was a little more middle and up, and drove it to right center.
"And that's what good teams do. And Desmond hit a high changeup. They try and threaten every inning, they get guys on base and they plug away."
Price's outing came on a steamy night, which can at times be an obstacle for Rays pitchers given the fact they pitch half of the time in Tropicana Field's controlled climate of 72 degrees.
"It was hot. I was drenched," Price said. "I changed my jersey after the sixth, but I don't feel like it did a lot. My undershirt, I wringed it out and probably filled up a gallon jug and went from there.
"It was definitely hot and it's something we have to kind of fight against whenever we do this. Because we play in 72-degree weather whenever we play at home -- and I'm not saying it makes you soft -- but whenever you get out here in 92, 93, it feels like it's 106."
Once Price got lifted, the fireworks started. In a bizarre occurrence, Joel Peralta took over in the eighth, but never got to throw a pitch. The veteran right-hander warmed up then was met by the umpires on the mound. Soon Rays manager Joe Maddon joined the group, which began to examine Peralta's glove.
First, Peralta's glove was escorted off the mound by home-plate umpire Tim Tschida, followed by Peralta, who was ejected for having a foreign substance on his glove.
"If somebody has been known to use a foreign substance on their glove or their hat, a nice hot night is the time to use it," Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. "And so I asked them to check, obviously he had it."
Peralta faces a possible suspension, which could deplete the Rays' roster, which the club can ill afford while playing in Interleague contests.
Jake McGee pitched the eighth and retired the Nationals in order. Fernando Rodney pitched the ninth and went three up, three down to earn his 20th save.
"Fernando was kind of amped up there because his best friend [Peralta] was vilified there in a sense, so he had something to prove there also," Maddon said. "It said 99 [mph], but I thought it might have exceeded 99. He threw the ball well."
B.J. Upton got the Rays rolling in the first with an RBI single to left. Carlos Pena then sparked a four-run third with a two-run homer off Chien-Ming Wang. Elliot Johnson added a two-run triple in the inning.
Pena, who has six hits in his last three games, had not hit a home run since May 30.
"Anytime I can contribute in any way, it's good," Pena said. "And obviously when I can hit the ball out of the park and bring in two runs with one swing, that's always good. Whether it's a walk, a big hit, or a play you make in the field, or a big homer, it feels good to help the ballclub out. But as hitters, we like to swing it. It just makes you feel good."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.