By Joe Henderson
ST. PETERSBURG — Tropicana Field has more than its share of critics.
Former Rays manager Joe Maddon, after losing a game because of an infield popup that hit a catwalk and fell in safely, famously grumped, "It pretty much can't happen anywhere else but here in Major League Baseball."
But the current Rays think the place is just dandy. They ran their home winning streak to 11 Sunday after beating the Orioles 8-3 to complete a three-game sweep. It tied the Yankees for the longest home streak in the majors this season.
It was also their third consecutive home series sweep, having also swept the Royals in four games and the Red Sox in three.
They have outscored opponents 76-26 during that stretch.
It's the fourth time this season the Rays have gone on a home winning streak of at least six games. And, while we're talking numbers, there is this:
Since May 26, the Rays have played 46 home games and have won 35.
Sunday was the last game this season against the majors-worst Orioles. The Rays won the season series 11-8, including five of the past six.
For the record
The Rays have proven they can hang with the big boys this season. They have gone 25-23 against the five American League teams currently leading the playoff spots, although the Rays' wild-card chances remain remote (7½ behind the A's for the second wild card). On June 20, the Rays lost 5-1 to the Astros, falling to 34-40. Since then, they're 44-24 (.647) but still have lost ground to the East-leading Red Sox (48-20, .705 in that span). The Yankees were atop the East on June 20 but have gone 40-37 since then.
Walk this way
Ryne Stanek's opening act didn't go so well. The right-hander made his 25th start of the season as the opener but didn't have much. He threw 15 pitches, 12 of which were balls, and walked three before giving way to RHP Yonny Chirinos with one out, thanks to C Jesus Sucre throwing out Cedric Mullins trying to steal second. Fortunately for the Rays, there was no damage as Chirinos got a strikeout and flyout.
Stanek did mark one milestone though. He became the first pitcher with 25 starts and 25 relief appearances in one season since the Phillies' Hugh Mulcahy in 1937.
OF Tommy Pham's single in the second inning extended his hitting streak to 13, tying his career high.
Thievery, times two
OF Mallex Smith got his first career steal of home in the second inning on the back end of a double steal. Tommy Pham stole second base, and Smith took off for home on the throw. It was Smith's 31st steal of the season, and it was the first Rays steal of home since Desmond Jennings pulled it off on July 3, 2012, against the Yankees.
The Triple-A Durham Bulls face Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Yankees affiliate) in the Governors' Cup final for the second straight season. The best-of-five series in the International League begins Tuesday. Scranton/Wilkes-Barre hosts the first two games, with the remainder in Durham, N.C. … Double-A Montgomery played the decisive fifth game of its playoff series Sunday night against Jackson (Diamondbacks) in the Southern League. … Class A Bowling Green led its best-of-three playoff series in the Midwest League against West Michigan (Tigers) 1-0, with a Sunday game scheduled. … Short-season Class A Hudson Valley played Game 2 of its best-of-three playoff series in the NY-Penn League against Tri-City (Astros) on Sunday. Hudson Valley lost the opener 3-0.