Upton, big frames boost Rays in NYC
Speedster has four hits, including homer in four-run seventh
NEW YORK -- Big innings fueled a rain-soaked 10-6 Rays win over the Mets on Sunday at Citi Field.
The Rays scored four runs in both the fifth and seventh innings and a two-spot in the eighth en route to their second consecutive come-from-behind win while experiencing their second straight rain-delayed game. In the process, Tampa Bay claimed the weekend series against New York to finish its road trip at 3-3.
Seventeen hits ignited a Rays offense that scored 10 or more runs for a Major League-leading 11th time this season.
"It was just one of those days where I think we were pretty locked in as an offense," Evan Longoria said.
Eleven of the Rays' hits came from the top of the order, as B.J. Upton and Longoria had four hits each, while Carl Crawford had three.
"It's starting to come around, slowly but surely," said Upton, who tied a career high with four RBIs and finished a triple shy of the cycle. "Just have to stick with it and keep doing what I'm doing."
Longoria credited Upton for setting the tone Sunday.
"It was just one of those things where I think when B.J. gets going -- leadoff hitter, whoever's in the spot -- when they get going early, it gives the guys a little more confidence," Longoria said.
Trailing, 2-0, the Rays opened the fifth with consecutive singles by Jason Bartlett and Dioner Navarro against Mets starter Mike Pelfrey. That's when Rays manager Joe Maddon decided to pinch-hit Willy Aybar for starter Jeff Niemann.
"It was not going our way, and Pelfrey was pitching good and I did not want him to get on a true roll there," Maddon said. "Niemann had been struggling, so it was a little bit easier to do what we did at that point. Getting the first two runners on obviously made it a lot easier to pinch-hit Willy in that situation."
Aybar promptly lined a single to left field to load the bases.
"And that was a big moment in today's game," Maddon said. "That turned the tide right around. That gave us a strong sense of believing right there and it put them in a totally different mindset.
"They had to start getting people warmed up. And they go from a situation where it was going along very smoothly, because Pelfrey's pinch count was pretty low at that point. And all of a sudden Willy's pinch-hit turned the thing around."
Upton made it four consecutive hits in the fifth when he doubled down the left-field line to chase home Bartlett and Navarro. Crawford extended the string to five consecutive hits with a single to left that scored Aybar and Upton to put the Rays up, 4-2.
Brian Schneider answered for the Mets in the bottom of the sixth with a three-run homer on an 0-1 pitch from Joe Nelson to put New York up, 5-4. For Schneider, the blast was his second homer of the season and his second three-run homer of the series.
The Rays didn't blink. Pinch-hitter Pat Burrell singled to open the seventh and scored when the next hitter, Upton, homered into the upper deck in left field to give Tampa Bay a 6-5 lead. Longoria and Gabe Kapler added RBI doubles to push the lead to 8-5.
"I thought that was pretty good after we gave up the homer to Schneider and put them back on top, our guys really responded well," Maddon said. "And B.J.'s home run was magnificent."
The Mets cut the lead to 8-6 when Gary Sheffield hit into a fielder's choice to drive home a run. But the Rays added two in the eighth on a bases-loaded walk by Carlos Pena and a sacrifice fly by Kapler.
"We stayed in the game," Upton said. "Our pitchers gave us a chance, and I think the most important part is to come off the road trip .500. You know, we felt like we should have won the Rockies series. We didn't. We came here against a good ballclub and came away with two."
Lance Cormier, Nelson, Randy Choate, Grant Balfour and J.P. Howell pitched the last five innings. And though their collective effort allowed four runs, they were tough when they needed to be while preserving the win.
After losing two of three in Colorado, Maddon was pleased to capture the New York series.
"Going into Colorado and winning the first game big, they just pitched so well against us," Maddon said. "We just couldn't get enough offense out there. And here they pitched well against us, too. The first two nights were really difficult, and we won a real tough game [Saturday] the way we've been talking about. And then I think it was a nice carryover today."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.