ST. PETERSBURG — Dana Eveland had pitched with a lead only three times this season, and all were of at least four runs, so pitching in the ninth inning with a two-run lead is not exactly his forte these days.
Naturally, it was Eveland who trotted in from the bullpen Monday facing that scenario against the visiting Angels.
Ryan Garton, who allowed the first four runs in Thursday's epic ninth-inning meltdown, continued to warm up. He was next.
Not exactly how the Rays envisioned closing out wins this season, but Rays manager Kevin Cash had to make do with what was available, since his two closers are on the disabled list, and Xavier Cedeno and Matt Andriese were unavailable because of their recent workload.
"The no roles things down there, it throws you for a loop," Eveland said. "I don't expect to be in the game in the ninth inning, but we're all going to try and do our job whenever we're in there."
It was the Fourth of July, but anyone expecting more fireworks from the Rays struggling bullpen left Tropicana Field pleasantly surprised.
Eveland retired the one batter he faced, and Garton stranded two runners in the Rays' 4-2 victory.
With his first big-league save, Garton became the first Ray this season not named Alex Colome to save a game.
"It was great to get the call and help the team out," Garton said. "I was glad I was able to go out and do my job, being able to put up a couple of outs when we needed it. It's cool."
The Rays (34-48) snapped a four-game losing streak and won for only the third time in 19 games. The Angels (33-50) have lost 12 of their last 14.
"Feels good to get a win," Cash said. "Kind of difficult to come by these days."
Kind of difficult because the Rays bullpen has let more than a few slip away. But on Monday it was the trio of Erasmo Ramirez (four outs), Eveland and Garton who shut the door on the Angeles and enabled starter Matt Moore to even his season record at 5-5.
The bullpen entered the day having allowed 53 runs in its last 51 1/3 innings. The criticism over how Cash used his relievers and how they perform when called upon has been loud.
"You can't really get offended by it," Eveland said. "The way it is is the way it is. We haven't been pitching well. We need to be better and we know that."
Cash wanted Eveland to face right-handed hitter Shane Robinson because he felt that would prevent Angels manager Mike Scioscia from using lefty Kole Calhoun as a pinch-hitter. Eveland struck out Robinson on three pitches.
Cash then called for Garton because he figured Scioscia wouldn't use Calhoun since the Angels were back to the top of the order.
The strategy worked.
"When you lose a bunch of games in a row, when you win one you hope that's the start," Eveland said. "It feels good for all of us down there to have a successful day from the pen. Hopefully it's the start of something."