Rays beat Tribe despite lineup error
Five-run fourth inning proves the difference in series
ST. PETERSBURG -- Cut away all the bizarre happenings from Sunday's Indians-Rays contest and you're left with what's most important to the Rays: They won, 7-5.
By winning, Tampa Bay claimed its four-game weekend series with Cleveland while winning its third consecutive game.
"I absolutely loved it," manager Joe Maddon said. "I think we've been questioned about our joy for playing on occasion. But you saw it today. Our guys are definitely there. We're still in the process of pulling this whole season together. And I just loved it."
The Rays had a lot of heroes Sunday, but none were bigger than starter Andy Sonnanstine, shortstop Jason Bartlett and reserve catcher Michel Hernandez.
Sonnanstine ended up hitting in the third spot in the Rays' batting order after a lineup-card mixup that disqualified them from having a DH, which also relegated the Rays' intended DH, Evan Longoria, to the bench.
Sonnanstine delivered 5 2/3 innings on the mound, allowing five runs on seven hits en route to his second win of the season, and he added an RBI double hitting in the three hole.
The right-hander's major problem came in the form of Ben Francisco, who connected for his third and fourth career home runs off Sonnanstine to account for four of the runs the Indians scored off Sonnanstine. Francisco is now hitting .857 (6-for-7) against Sonnanstine.
"The guy who hit the two homers, Francisco, basically owns him," Maddon said. "It's just one of those situations where a hitter sees a pitcher really well. You take those two at-bats away and Andy did a pretty nice job."
"To be honest with you, I don't think I pitched very well," Sonnanstine said. "I think I was maybe better than average. There are still some things that I have to work on. There were two pitches that really hurt me. Francisco, I've been having some serious trouble with that guy. I still need to do better.
"But at the same time, I'm excited about winning today, and taking this series. That builds some momentum going into our next series against Oakland. We're going to face the Indians on our next road trip. [This] gives us a lot of momentum going to Cleveland."
Bartlett helped fuel the seven-run, eight-hit Rays attack with a single, double and triple in four at-bats to finish a home run shy of hitting for the cycle. In addition, he scored two runs, had an RBI and stole a base. Bartlett is now hitting a robust .370.
Meanwhile, Hernandez, who was subbing behind the plate for Dioner Navarro Sunday, provided the big blow in the Rays' five-run fourth when he connected for a three-run double off Indians starter David Huff to put the Rays up by three.
After losing the first game of the series, 11-7, Thursday night, the Rays fell behind, 7-0, in Friday night's game before storming back to take an 8-7 win on B.J. Upton's walkoff homer. The Rays then took the Saturday and Sunday's games to claim the series.
"Felt fortunate, after the first night, and after the first four innings of the second night, this thing could have turned in an entirely different direction," Maddon said.
Sunday's win left the Rays one game under the .500 mark with the hopes of building some momentum.
"We're just trying to pick it up a little bit, get to .500," Crawford said.
Maddon said it has been great to be home, where the Rays improved to 9-8 on the season.
"The schedule has been very difficult, we've been all over the place," Maddon said. "We always like to play at the Trop, the Pit, and getting back here. "I always believe in going segmentally, kind of, where you're going to obviously get to .500, then five over and 10 over. That's how I look at it. It's always one game at a time. If there's a segmental part that I'm looking for, you do work in segments after you get to .500, and that indicates you're moving along the right path."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.