Pena brings Rays back from behind
First baseman notches six RBIs; Crawford gets 1,000th hit
ST. PETERSBURG -- Can Carlos Pena do it again in 2008? How many times did Rays fans hear that one during the offseason?
Based on Friday night's results, the answer is an emphatic yes.
Pena collected 46 home runs and 121 RBIs in 2007, earning American League Comeback Player of the Year honors and collecting countless friends along the way with his positive outlook on life. Naysayers suggested Pena had the potential to be a one-hit wonder; the Rays thought otherwise and signed Pena to a long-term deal in the offseason.
Those assuming Pena's optimistic stance were looking pretty good Friday night when the Rays slugger hit his fourth and fifth home runs of the season and drew a bases-loaded walk to drive in the go-ahead run -- giving him six RBIs for the game -- to lead a 10-5 win over the Orioles in front of a Tropicana Field crowd of 12,146.
"It feels great [to have the kind of night I had]," Pena said. "And to come back and win that game, that is so huge for us. That is so big. I think it was a collective effort. A bunch of guys in our lineup swung the bats really well. Those runs at the end there really capped it off. It's more of a collective effort. Hitting, winning, it's contagious. You flow with it. And today, we swung the bats great."
The Rays trailed 5-2 with one out in the seventh when Orioles manager Dave Trembley yanked starter Jeremy Guthrie and signaled to the bullpen for left-hander Jamie Walker to face the top of the Rays' order, which features a parade left-handed hitters in Akinori Iwamura, Carl Crawford, and Carlos Pena.
Walker is "good on lefties, you don't often get it done against him," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "I know I would have felt good about it in the same situation."
But the strategy began to unravel when Iwamura scratched out an infield hit followed by a Crawford flare into center field that dropped in for career hit No. 1,000, putting runners on first and second with Pena coming to the plate.
And once again, Pena produced, depositing a Walker curveball into the right-field stands to tie the game at 5.
"At that point, he had all their RBIs," Walker said. "The last thing I want to do is hang a curveball, and I did. He's got pop, so he won that battle. But I'm looking forward to facing him tomorrow.
"It was a perfect situation," he continued. "I mean, that's my role, and I tanked it. Like I said, I cost our team the win and I cost Guthrie a win, but it's done with and I have to prepare for tomorrow."
Trembley could only tip his cap to the Rays.
"They find out a way to get the big guy up with guys on base, and that proved to be the difference in the game," Trembley said. "We had the right matchups. They had the table set for them, and we didn't finish a pitch and they hit it."
Maddon saluted the strategy that backfired.
"Walker is a very good left-hander on a left-handed hitter," Maddon said. "It just didn't work tonight."
After Al Reyes pitched a scoreless eighth, the Rays erupted for five runs in the bottom half of the inning. Pena's bases-loaded walk gave the Rays the lead, then B.J. Upton added a two-run single, Eric Hinske doubled home another, and Shawn Riggans' RBI single equaled the final margin.
Suddenly the Rays are back at .500 for the young season -- they endured a four-game losing streak while moving forward despite many health problems -- and they have a different look.
"This team is different," said Crawford, who has played for other Rays teams that would not have handled the adversity as well as this year's squad has. "Even the times we lost, this team has been good at shaking off the bad stuff real quick. Usually in the past, something like four losses would have turned into six or seven losses. We just always feel like we can come out of any bad situation. The whole difference is attitude and believing we can do it."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.