NEW YORK — The chips and salsa manager Joe Maddon munched on when he made his unusual foray into the Rays clubhouse after Saturday's tough loss were outstanding, some of New York's finest.
But the brief chats he had with relievers Jake McGee and Joel Peralta, whose tag-team seventh-inning implosion cost them the game, were better, Maddon assuring both he still had the utmost confidence in them and would eagerly use them in the next critical moment.
Which, as it turned out, took place Sunday, as the Rays again had a two-run lead in the seventh and, though the matchups dictated they be used in reverse order, Maddon put McGee and Peralta in pretty much the same situation.
And this time it worked out perfectly, the Rays hanging on for an important 3-1 bounce-back win over the Yankees and heading home at 39-37 to face the sizzling Blue Jays, with Tampa Bay last in the American League East but only five games off the lead.
"I've had some very good and interesting chips and salsa moments throughout my life," Maddon said, "but that really ranks up there — top 10."
Maddon is an extreme loyalist to his players, and he showed confidence in James Loney as well, allowing the lefty swinger to face lefty specialist Boone Logan in their most promising opportunity in the seventh. And Loney also delivered, a two-out, two-strike single — just beyond the reach of shortstop Jayson Nix — with the bases loaded that scored the two runs that made the difference.
"Huge," Maddon said.
Maddon admitted he briefly considered pinch-hitting righty Sean Rodriguez but found comfort in how calm Loney remains in two-strike counts and in his willingness to drive in runs with singles instead of trying to do too much. Of course, Loney's .354 average against lefties (compared to .277 vs. righties) didn't hurt, though Yankees manager Joe Girardi didn't seem to notice.
"That lefty-righty thing is a little blown up sometimes I feel," Loney said.
Rookie Chris Archer was the beneficiary of the rally as he got the win for his solid six innings, the key to his improved showing a slight quickening of his tempo.
"It was kind of like this: My mind was working slow, but I was keeping the pace of the game pretty fast," Archer said. "It's weird, my dad texted me before the game, 'Work fast but stay under control.' And then (catcher Jose) Molina after the second inning said pretty much the same thing. … It was just cool for multiple sources to see that and for me to do that and be successful."
But with Saturday's loss their ninth when leading from the seventh inning on, there's no doubt the bullpen work — with Fernando Rodney zipping through an impressive ninth as well — was the biggest accomplishment of the day.
Maddon said it was important to make sure McGee and Peralta knew how he felt, and how confident he was they would handle the next such moment.
"It was good to sit down with the boys, and it was almost incredibly coincidental and awesome at the same time they were able to get back into the game (Sunday), basically the same set of circumstances, and be successful," Maddon said.
Peralta said the talk was reassuring, that "he came here and told me he believes in me. And he actually gave me some advice — slow down a little bit, breathe on the mound. And that's what I did."
McGee felt much the same, that "it definitely helps" to talk it out with the boss.
Plus, McGee said, "They were pretty good chips and salsa."
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]