Jaso's five RBIs spark Rays to finale win
Designated hitter has career game batting in the leadoff spot
ARLINGTON -- "Mikey" got the job done Sunday afternoon, and the Rays managed to escape Texas without getting swept.
"Mikey" is John Jaso, who has been known as such since Carlos Pena forgot his name and referred to him as "Mike" Jaso. The Rangers won't soon forget Jaso's name after his five RBIs sank their hopes for a weekend sweep as the Rays took a 9-5 win at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington with 26,932 watching.
"I was glad I could do that," said Jaso, who hit in the leadoff spot for the second consecutive day. "Yesterday in the leadoff spot, I kind of struggled a little bit. But today, I don't know, I just swung at pitches I wanted to hit and laid off pitches out of the zone -- kind of paid off here. ... I have to credit B.J. [Upton]. He kept things going all game long."
After losing the first two games of the series, the Rays' win moved them to 3-3 on the road trip before heading home to begin a six-game homestand. By winning, the Rays maintained the best record in baseball at 37-20 while keeping a two-game cushion over the second-place Yankees.
Jaso hit his third home run of the season and career in the third inning. He added a two-run single in the eighth inning and an RBI double in the ninth inning to drive home the Rays' final run.
"He works a good at-bat almost every time up," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "The only time I haven't seen a good at-bat out of him is when an umpire will call a pitch he thought was a ball a strike. And all of a sudden, he expands his zone and there goes a good at-bat. Otherwise, this guy, at-bat per at-bat, works it as good as anybody we have on our team right now. He's a mature hitter. There's things he needs to learn about the game. But as a hitter, he's very mature because he knows his strike zone."
Jaso also provided his teammates a little comic relief. While rounding second base in the fifth inning, he tripped and did a header before getting back to his feet and getting thrown out at third base.
"I was going to third all the way," Jaso said. "I don't know what happened -- blew a flat tire out there. That was good. Everybody had a good laugh. Good stuff."
Jaso could not remember if he has had a game in which he accrued five RBIs.
"In Triple-A, probably the closest was a grand slam," Jaso said. "I don't know if there's another RBI mixed in there."
Five RBIs from the leadoff spot established a new team record for the Rays, breaking the old record of four, which had been reached on several occasions.
Matt Garza allowed four runs in 5 2/3 innings to earn the victory, snapping a career-high three-game losing streak over his previous three starts. He was winless in his previous five starts, dating back to May 10. He is now 5-0 with a 1.94 ERA when working on five or more days' rest.
"It's great that we didn't get swept," Garza said. "We ended up this road trip 3-3. That's a decent mark, and we've got to go back home and take our road success to home and start getting back our home wins."
B.J. Upton went 3-for-4 and scored three runs while Pena had two hits, including a solo home run in the fourth, which gave Pena his first hit of the series.
"It feels great to get a hold of anything, that was good," Pena said. "I'm just happy I was able to help the team with my bat. It kind of clicked well today offensively, and we got good pitching. That's the way it's supposed to work, or the way we'd like it to work more often."
Sunday's game lasted four hours and eight minutes, which became the Rays' second-longest nine-inning game in club history and their longest nine-inning game on the road. By winning, they improved to 22-8 on the road this season.
"I now consider this an excellent road trip after going 3-3 under the adversity of the games that we played in Toronto, then coming down here [and playing in the heat] ... that was an excruciating game regarding the elements," Maddon said. "The weather was so good that it was bad. I'm really proud of the way our guys handled these last couple of days."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.