ST. PETERSBURG — His Rays down 5-1 halfway through Monday's game with the Yankees, and admittedly a bit staggered by it, manager Joe Maddon saw opportunity.
He turned to bench coach Dave Martinez and told him they would snap their history-threatening streak of not scoring more than five runs in a home game — second longest at 22 games to the 1908 Brooklyn Superbas — and end up with a victory in the process.
"We had to score at least six," Maddon said. "And if we scored at least six, the Superbas are in our dust."
Maddon nailed it exactly right as the Rays — behind home runs from Sam Fuld (yes, Sam Fuld) and B.J. Upton and dazzling work from the bullpen — scored a 6-5 win. Tim Jordan, Tommy Sheehan, John Hummell and the other members of that 1908 squad that was a forerunner to the Dodgers would have never seen it coming as the Rays rallied for five runs in the sixth inning alone.
Neither did the Yankees, who collapsed to their sixth straight loss, their longest skid since 2007.
"We're going through a really rough stretch right now," manager Joe Girardi said. "It seems like when things start to go your way, they turn around a little bit. This is where you are tested as a team. And you have to fight through it."
The Rays, who improved to 24-17 and opened a three-game AL East lead, felt pretty good about how they acquitted themselves.
"You've got to teach yourself a lesson now and then, and I think tonight we taught ourselves a lesson," Maddon said. "You get down by four runs, you have not been scoring well. But that is major-league baseball at its finest right there. If you keep on plugging, you've got the kind of people that could turn this thing around, and they did tonight."
Tropicana Field — alive Monday with a loud crowd of 25,024 — had not provided much of a homefield advantage for the Rays, who hadn't been scoring or winning much under the tilted roof. That, too, was part of the satisfaction as they staged their biggest comeback of the season.
"I think it does say something as much as we scuffled here and to be able to come back against those guys," Upton said.
The night didn't look promising, not with ace David Price knocked out after five — and allowing his first homer to a lefty (Curtis Granderson) in nearly two years. But the Rays put into practice their theory of never giving up, and it paid off.
The bullpen stopped the Yankees, with Juan Cruz allowing just a single to start the sixth, then Joel Peralta and former Yankee Kyle Farnsworth teaming to get the final nine outs in order.
"That's almost unheard of vs. the Yankees," Maddon said.
And the offense, limited to a Johnny Damon homer over five innings, kicked in in the sixth.
After John Jaso doubled, Fuld — whose 8-for-71 skid was primarily the result of hitting too many balls in the air — hit one on a line that went just over the rightfield wall. It was the third homer of his career and second this season, not much different than the ball he tucked around the Pesky Pole in Boston.
"With my size I never know," Fuld said. "But that one felt pretty good."
Singles by Evan Longoria and Matt Joyce and a couple of wild pitches by A.J. Burnett made it 5-4 with a man on second, and then Upton mashed a curveball over the leftfield wall.
The Rays were ahead to stay. And the Superbas? As Maddon said, "In our dust."