05/11/08 6:10 PM ET
Rays complete sweep of Angels
Crawford's three-run blast extends record home streak to nine
By Bill Chastain / MLB.com
In a perfect baseball world, the hitters provide just enough scoring when the pitching is going well, and they turn the scoring up a notch when the pitching isn't quite as good.
So Sunday afternoon's 8-5 win over the Angels served as further evidence that the cosmic tumblers of the baseball universe have kicked into place for the Rays. Nobody knows how long such a state will last, but you can say the Rays have found harmony.
A Mother's Day crowd of 13,010 at Tropicana Field watched as the Rays went with their bats for a change to complete a three-game sweep. With the win, the Rays moved to 21-16 on the season, marking the first time in club history the team has been five games over .500, while pushing its home winning streak to nine, further extending that club record.
"I just think that's what a good team does," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "We weren't hitting, so the pitchers rose to the occasion. Today the pitchers struggled a bit, so the hitters came through."
Of the hitters who came through on Sunday, Carl Crawford stood out by hitting a three-run homer off Justin Speier in the sixth to erase a 5-4 Angels lead.
Crawford, who had singled, scored and stolen two bases in three earlier at-bats, hit a 2-1 pitch from Speier into the right-field stands to put the Rays up, 7-5. The Rays' left fielder has experienced a lot of losing baseball with Tampa Bay and says this year's team "just feels different."
"We feel like we're going to win, and we feel like we're going to win every game right now," Crawford said. "We know that's not possible, but at least we're confident enough that when that time comes, we're going to make it happen."
Rays pitchers have pitched so well lately that when Vladimir Guerrero dropped an RBI single into right field off Tampa Bay starter Andy Sonnanstine in the third, it snapped several impressive streaks.
Up to that point, Rays pitchers had posted 24 consecutive scoreless innings, they had accrued 33 consecutive scoreless innings at home, and the club's starters had produced 25 scoreless innings.
Sonnanstine's personal streak of four consecutive wins came to an end on Sunday with his no-decision, which he attributed primarily to "below-average command."
"I just tried to fight through it and keep us as close as I could," said Sonnanstine, who allowed five runs on eight hits in five innings.
In addition to Crawford's immense contributions Sunday, Cliff Floyd returned to the Rays' lineup with a flourish after being on the disabled list following knee surgery, delivering RBI singles in his first two at-bats. And B.J. Upton had three hits, scored three runs and notched an RBI. The team's stick work did not go unnoticed by Sonnanstine.
"It's huge for our offense to pick me up like that," Sonnanstine said. "I was very impressed how they got the job done and helped me out with my lack of execution."
J.P. Howell picked up the win after posting three scoreless innings following Sonnanstine's exit, holding the Angels to one hit while striking out two and allowing no walks. For the left-hander, the win was his second in four days, dropping his ERA to 2.88.
Troy Percival threw a scoreless ninth to record his ninth save of the season.
"We're going to start swinging the bats well before too long," Crawford said. "But it's been nice to see the guys pitching the way they've been pitching."
Clearly, the Rays are in a good place right now. Count Maddon among those who believe they can remain there.
"I believe that we're capable of playing this kind of baseball consistently," Maddon said. "I really do,"
Meanwhile, Angels manager Mike Scioscia echoed Maddon's sentiments by noting how the Rays did nothing that surprised them over the weekend.
"They're a team that has a lot of positive things happening. [They have] a lot of young talent, some good arms, and what Percy [Troy Percival] is doing over there is remarkable," Scioscia said. "They have a lot of good things going on, and I think we saw it firsthand."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.