"It's the best 3-7 trip in the history of our organization," quipped a relieved Rays manager Joe Maddon.
First-place Boston had its five-game winning streak snapped on Sunday, which allowed the Rays to move within 7 1/2 games of the AL East lead. The Rays also improved their lead for the second AL Wild Card spot to two games over Cleveland and Baltimore after both lost Sunday.
Rodriguez made a critical mistake during the Rays' 6-4 loss in the opening game of the series when he pinch-ran and got picked off at a critical stage of the game. Sunday, the opportunity for redemption came his way and he took full advantage.
Tampa Bay trailed, 1-0, entering the eighth when Yoervis Medina started the inning by hitting Evan Longoria and walking Luke Scott. James Loney followed with a double to right to drive home Longoria and prompted the Mariners to bring in left-hander Oliver Perez. Maddon countered by inserting Rodriguez into the game to pinch-hit for Matt Joyce.
Rodriguez said he didn't want to try and do too much.
"Just try and hit it up the middle or hit it the other way, make sure I was ready to hit," Rodriguez said. "Because coming off the bench is difficult, obviously, and he's got a low to mid-90s fastball. I didn't know if he was going to keep coming at me with that."
The count reached 2-2 when Rodriguez lined a single through the middle that scored Longoria. And when center fielder Abraham Almonte bobbled the ball, pinch-runner Desmond Jennings scored on the play as well to put the Rays up, 3-1.
"That's good for him, that's good for us," Maddon said. "I know he's going to feel a lot better about himself after that."
"He gets on top of a fastball right there and drives it back through the middle. That was outstanding."
Rodriguez allowed that he felt grateful to be given the opportunity in the clutch situation.
"Considering [his mistake] only happened two days ago, you don't get an opportunity right away," Rodriguez said. "That's instant gratification, instant redemption, so I'm very fortunate. ... I'll definitely sleep better [than he did after Friday night's game]."
Matt Moore started for the Rays looking for his 16th win and he deserved a better fate, surrendering a solo home run to Kendrys Morales in the second inning, representing the only run he would allow in 6 1/3 innings.
"[Moore is] a good pitcher, has a great arm and throws the ball downhill," Mariners manager Eric Wedge said. "Two or three plus pitches, he was tough on us today."
Despite the quality start, Moore did not factor into the decision.
Prior to Rodriguez coming through, the Rays' bats had again been silent. The personification of that silence came in the seventh.
Erasmo Ramirez started for the Mariners and pitched six scoreless innings before Kelly Johnson walked and Jose Lobaton singled to start the seventh. Charlie Furbush took over and walked pinch-hitter Wil Myers to load the bases.
Delmon Young then pinch-hit for David DeJesus to give the Rays a right-hander hitting against the lefty. Young swung at the first pitch and hit the ball back to Furbush, who threw home to catcher Henry Blanco to start a 1-2-3 double play.
"Seriously, bases loaded with Delmon right there and the one that you don't want to make is that, and they get two outs," Maddon said.
The Rays have two hits in their last 20 at-bats with the bases loaded. Seven double plays are included within the confines of that frustrating statistic.
Ben Zobrist then flew out to right to end the threat.
After the inning "I honestly thought, that has to be about it," Maddon said. "Uncle. ... In a perverse way I felt something good has to happen after that, because you can't sink to any lower lows than that."
While something good did happen in the eighth when the Rays took the lead, the frustration continued in the ninth when the Rays had two singles, two doubles, and one walk and came away with just one run. Maddon said he could laugh about it after getting the win.
"I can," Maddon said. "But, again, it just typifies this entire West coast thing. I know the rotation of the Earth is the same. The sun rise and the sun set, I get all of that. But we have just not played normal Rays baseball out here."