ST. PETERSBURG — As much as B.J. Upton has struggled at times this season, manager Joe Maddon knows he's capable of taking over a game like he did in Saturday night's 6-3 win over the Orioles.
Upton racked up five RBIs for the second time in his career thanks to two doubles, equaling his RBI total from the past 26 home games combined. In doing so, he helped the Rays (75-63) remain nine behind the Red Sox in the AL wild-card race in front of 14,223 at Tropicana Field.
"He's done it for us in the past and came through" Saturday, Maddon said. "It's in his future. You're going to see it. Don't forget, he's totally young. He's got a lot to learn and he's going to learn it. And as he does, he's going to eventually put up some really sick numbers."
Upton's season, in which he once again found himself in the middle of trade-deadline rumors, has included his usual dynamic speed (team-leading 27 steals) and dazzling defensive play in center. But he entered Saturday with a .220 batting average that was fifth lowest in the American League, was 1 for his last 23 with the bases loaded dating to last season and was a different hitter at home (six HRs, 16 RBIs) compared to the road (12 HRs, 45 RBIs).
Upton said he's focused on finishing the season strong, and Saturday was a good start. "I just want to be productive, period, whether it's at home or on the road," he said.
Upton's production was enough for right-hander Wade Davis, who snapped a five-start winless streak with a solid outing, allowing three runs over 6⅔ innings.
His night couldn't have started worse, giving up a double and two-run homer to his first two hitters. But Davis settled in, pitching four scoreless innings until the sixth, when he walked three and allowed a run before getting out of a bases-loaded jam by getting Robert Andino to ground into a pitcher-to-catcher-to-first inning-ending double play.
"It was a huge play for me," Davis said.
Maddon said Davis, who walked four, had good stuff, but his command remains an issue.
"He gets rid of those walks, he can be dominant, he really can," Maddon said.
Two-out walks also sparked the Rays' rallies, with Matt Joyce walking twice in front of Upton. One time, Upton smacked a two-run double off the wall, and the other, he just missed a grand slam, with the ball hitting off the top of the leftfield fence.
"Nobody likes the guy in front of them walked pretty much, to get to yourself," Upton said. "I think if you're a competitor, you want to rise to the occasion. It just happened to work out for me in that instance."
The Rays did have an uncharacteristically sloppy night defensively, tying a season high with three errors. That included two throwing errors by Gold Glove third baseman Evan Longoria, who picked up three in a series for the first time in his career. Catcher John Jaso's errant throw to second soared into centerfield in the eighth, putting a runner at third.
"That's just not something we normally do," Maddon said. "The first ball, (Longoria) didn't get a good grip on it, and second one he did not, either. … We can't do those things."
But the Rays relievers stepped up, with J.P. Howell, Joel Peralta and Kyle Farnsworth getting the final seven outs.
"The bullpen," Maddon said, "was outstanding."
As was Upton.
Joe Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.