Rays jump out to early lead, complete sweep

Rays jump out to early lead, complete sweep

Rays jump out to early lead, complete sweep
ANAHEIM -- Crooked numbers are a new part of the Rays' winning equation.

The club is built on pitching and defense, but lately those crooked numbers have fueled an offense that propelled an 8-2 road trip, finished off by Sunday afternoon's 8-3 win over the Angels at Angel Stadium.

The win gave the Rays (67-54) a four-game sweep of the Angels. In doing so, Tampa Bay maintained its one-game lead for the top spot in the American League Wild Card race.

"They took it to us," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "They kicked our butts. We didn't give ourselves a chance in any ballgame except the one yesterday. And those guys took it to us. That'll happen when you're not at a level you should be."

In baseball vernacular, "crooked" numbers represent innings in which a team scores more than one run. This particular Rays road trip will be remembered for the crooked numbers, which were plentiful.

Heading into Sunday afternoon's game, the Rays had posted an impressive 12 multi-run innings in nine games on the road trip. They added three more frames with crooked numbers on Sunday, and the results, predictably, were good.

"Over this series, we didn't leave much out there," third baseman Evan Longoria said. "We got the big hits when we needed to. And really, that's what we've been doing on this run. A lot can be said about whatever you want to talk about, but the root of it is we're getting the hits when it counts."

In the second, the Rays loaded the bases with one out. Angels starter Zack Greinke then hit Elliot Johnson to force home Tampa Bay's first run. One out later, B.J. Upton drew a walk to force home another run. Matt Joyce then singled to right to drive home two, putting the Rays up, 4-0.

Ryan Roberts connected off Greinke for a two-run homer in the fifth to push the lead to 6-1. Carlos Pena hit a two-run double in the ninth to complete the scoring.

"Our rallies have been more than one run," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "It's crooked numbers as opposed to the one digit there. We're much more confident as a group up and down. Guys that have not been swinging it well are swinging much better."

Moore allowed solo home runs to Mike Trout and Albert Pujols, but he managed to stay out of trouble for most of his 6 1/3-inning outing. The Angels' biggest threat against the left-hander came in the fifth, when he escaped a bases-loaded jam by retiring Trout on a fly ball to center.

"Being 2-0 to him, I wasn't going to try and get big with my fastball," Moore said. "... It was just a changeup he popped up. It was one of those pitches where I took a little bit off, almost like a BP changeup."

Moore earned his 10th win of the season and has gone 9-2 since June 1. Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Wade Davis covered the final 2 2/3 innings to preserve the victory.

What a difference a few days have made for the Rays' outlook. After dropping a gut-wrenching 3-2 game to the Mariners on Tuesday, the Rays looked ahead and knew they had to face five All-Star pitchers in a row beginning with Felix Hernandez in the final game of the Seattle series. That was followed by the likes of Dan Haren, Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Greinke once they got to Anaheim.

Hernandez overpowered the Rays on Wednesday, throwing a perfect game -- a feat that many figured would demoralize the team.

Think again.

The Rays collected themselves and proceeded to score 37 runs against the Angels to set a club record for runs scored in a four-game series.

"We're very pleased we were able to have the road trip we were able to have," Pena said. "That we did as well as we did in Anaheim -- you know that's a great team over there. Our pitching was spectacular, and we swung the bats pretty well. So, we were going on all cylinders."

The Rays' 8-2 mark on the road trip was the team's best during one road trip since winning nine from April 12-22, 2010.

"That's what we're capable of doing," said Pena, who hit the game-winning homer Saturday night. "I really believe that that's what we're capable of doing on a regular basis. I know we haven't been able to get to that level. We haven't been swinging at that level throughout the year. But I think that's what we're capable of doing. So it's no surprise to me that we were able to score those runs."

The Rays head home to Tropicana Field where they have a 32-27 mark. Maddon hopes that his team can continue to play as it has been playing once the club cranks it up inside its home building. The Rays began the season by winning 13 of 14 games at Tropicana Field. They have gone just 19-26 since.

"I really believe we can maintain this," Maddon said. "This is not a fluke. This is not an anomaly road trip."

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.