After tough start to trip, Rays head home happy

Club wins final three games in Houston, remains in postseason hunt

After tough start to trip, Rays head home happy

HOUSTON -- Talk about feeling renewed. How about losing four out of five games to start a road trip, only to win the final three before heading home?

The Rays' come-from-behind, 5-3 win over the Astros on Thursday night concluded a series win in Houston before the team heads back to Tropicana Field on Friday.

"Can't say enough about the way the team responded after three really tough days to start the trip," said manager Kevin Cash, whose team remains a half-game behind the Royals in the American League Wild Card race. "To be able to come in here and find a way to win three out of four speaks volumes about the club."

Souza Jr.'s go-ahead double

Heading into late July and early August, the schedule showed four-game stops at Yankee Stadium and Minute Maid Park. Schedules don't get much tougher than that.

And the Rays got off to a rough start in the first game of the Yankees series, experiencing an 11-inning, 6-5 loss.

"Oh man, that was a heartbreaker, that first game in New York," said outfielder Steven Souza Jr., who returned to the lineup Thursday with a home run and three RBIs. "We let a lot of games slip away there. After that series, we talked about finishing ballgames. And we just came here and finished ballgames."

Souza Jr.'s sizzling solo smash

The Rays lost the next two games before winning Sunday's series finale in New York. But then, they were pummeled by the Astros, 14-7, in Monday's opener in Houston.

However, the Rays responded, taking a 6-4 win on Tuesday and a 3-0 victory on Wednesday prior to Thursday's win.

"We never stopped believing," outfielder Corey Dickerson said. "Those were tough games that we could have won two more of, those games in New York. ... We played our ball the last couple of days, and fed off each other. We feel really good about ourselves right now."

Dickerson's great catch

When asked to contrast how he felt a week earlier in the first game of the Yankees series to Thursday night, Cash answered, "Quite a bit different."

"That was a gut-wrenching loss, no matter how it happened, when it happened," Cash said. "But you move past it. These guys did. They should feel really proud of themselves, the way they came in here and performed against, like we said, the best team in the American League. And we gave them four good games."

Cash said a lesser club might have let the devastation of New York crush them.

"It can derail a club," Cash said. "Not this one, because these guys, we have enough guys who are confident in our abilities, and they know the talent that's in the room. And they can get frustrated. We're allowed to get frustrated, because we care a lot. At the same time, they've shown the ability time and again to be able to bounce back and play well."

Bill Chastain has covered the Rays for since 2005. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.