Upton, Longoria help Rays earn split
Three-run seventh allows Garza to earn his third win
ST. PETERSBURG -- B.J. Upton stepped to the plate with two outs in the seventh, the score tied at three and runners occupying first and third.
In most cases, said situation would prompt the opposing manager to look down at his bullpen to see if he had any available weapons to dispose of the dangerous Upton, who can change a game with a swing of his bat.
Orioles manager Dave Trembley opted to stick with his starter, Koji Uehara. Not only had Uehara stymied the Rays for most of the afternoon, Upton was in the midst of an 0-for-20 slump -- the worst of his career.
The decision looked like a sound one until Upton reached out and made contact with an 0-2 pitch, pulling the ball down the left-field line for an RBI double. Upton's RBI turned out to be the game-winner in a 6-3 Rays win over the Orioles with 13,174 watching Tuesday afternoon at Tropicana Field.
By winning, the Rays completed their six-game homestand with a 4-2 mark before heading on the road for seven games with the Yankees, Red Sox and Orioles.
Pulling into second base after his hit, the normally cool Upton showed a rare sign of emotion by clapping his hands.
"It's been a long time coming," Upton said. "So far I've come up in some situations where I've felt like I needed to get a hit and I haven't. Obviously, I've been struggling and, obviously, the way we're playing right now, I don't think it's up to anybody's standards. I think all of us in this clubhouse feel like we can do better. I haven't been contributing offensively and finally to do something with [the game on the line] felt good."
Upton said Uehara's pitch was a splitter.
"I think he wanted it a little more down than it was and I was able to get the barrel on it," Upton said. "I don't know if [seeing the ball drop] was a relief, but I definitely felt a little bit of weight off my shoulders."
After Upton's double, left-hander Jamie Walker entered the game to pitch to Carl Crawford and he hit the Rays No. 2 hitter to load the bases. Evan Longoria then added some insurance by lacing a single through the left side of the infield to drive home two runs, giving him three RBIs on the day and pushing his Major League-leading RBI total to 34 while putting the Rays up 6-3.
Matt Garza started for the Rays and allowed only four hits and two earned runs over an eight-inning effort. All three runs against him were scored on home runs by Brian Roberts and Gregg Zaun. After allowing a leadoff double to Adam Jones in the ninth, Rays manager Joe Maddon opted to go with Brian Shouse and Troy Percival to close out the game and they retired all three hitters they faced.
"I didn't think I had my best stuff today," Garza said. "I was just trying to make them participate. I got burned twice by home runs. ... All the credit goes to the offense. They picked up today. ... I'm just trying to stay consistent and keep moving ahead."
Crawford ran the Rays to their first run when he singled with one out in the first and stole second base. The Orioles catcher, Zaun, threw wild allowing Crawford to move to third and Jones threw wild from center field to third, which sent Crawford home and gave the Rays a 1-0 lead.
Crawford has now stolen 19 bases this season without being thrown out and he has stolen a base in each of his last eight games.
Uehara then got down to business, retiring the next 14 hitters he faced, taking a 3-1 lead into the sixth.
"Their guy was totally a deceptionist," Maddon said. "... He really paints. He's an artist. The strikes-to-balls ratio is ridiculous in his favor."
Personifying that thought, Uehara used 11 pitches to strike out the side in the fourth.
"All [Uehara's] pitches were great," Trembley said. "He located, he had movement and he pitched in and out. It would have been great to get more run support for him, but it didn't happen."
Gabe Kapler ended Uehara's spell with a hot smash through the legs of Melvin Mora at third to lead off the sixth. Dioner Navarro followed with a double to put Kapler at third. One out later, Crawford grounded to second to score Kapler. Longoria then blooped a double into right field to tie the score at 3.
"The big play was Longo's blooper," Maddon said. "They play a deep outfield. That ball was in the air a long time."
Tuesday's win brought a smile to Maddon's face.
"I just think we played better during this home stand," Maddon said. "We're starting to look more like us."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.