ST. PETERSBURG — Matt Joyce seemed a bit on the defensive, having to explain his actions that led to him being hit by a pitch and in the middle of a benches-clearing incident in Monday's marathon loss when he felt he didn't do anything wrong.
So Tuesday night, he went on the offensive, hitting the longest, and most meaningful, of four Rays home runs in a rewarding 8-3 win over the first-place Red Sox.
"Sometimes, you've just got to let the bat do the talking,'' Joyce said. "Absolutely, that's a great feeling, especially to help your team win. I've never really been the type of person to talk a lot of trash and whatnot, so I wanted to come out and play a good game, play the game the right way and win the ball game.''
Desmond Jennings, returning to the leadoff spot, had his third career two-homer game, and Evan Longoria homered for the second straight game after hitting one in his previous 26. It was the first time in the Rays' 16-season history they hit four or more homers in consecutive games.
But it wasn't all power ball as the Rays (35-29), beating the Sox for only the second time in eight tries, also got a strong start from the inconsistent Roberto Hernandez, who, with his job potentially in jeopardy upon the expected late-June return of David Price, worked into the eighth, throwing a career-high 122 pitches.
"Roberto took charge,'' manager Joe Maddon said. "I think I'm learning a lesson with him. If we can get him deep into the games, he gets better. … I saw that he was getting better and their swings were not as good. So I kind of liked that whole thing.''
Hernandez allowed one run in a shaky first then two more in the third, but the Rays got him the lead after that. And he didn't allow anything else, turning in arguably his best start against a team not named the Marlins. "Very happy,'' Hernandez said. "I was confident with every pitch.''
The Rays needed his strong outing, and the relatively easy win, after Monday's crushing 14-inning loss. "A game like that, when it's 5½ hours and you lose, it makes it feel like hours," Jennings said.
Maddon, coincidentally, had gone to Joyce before Monday's game to compliment him for how hard he had played, and how he had grinded, on Sunday, diving for balls and working quality at-bats, telling him, "To me you demonstrated a level of toughness that I've not seen from you before.''
So after seeing Joyce yelled at and hit by John Lackey, jostled by catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia and thrust into the media spotlight, he was curious to see how he responded Tuesday, especially against a challenging lefty starter in Jon Lester.
And more than pleased with the results.
"I thought this might be a good moment for him to come back after (Monday) night and see if he could take it to another level,'' Maddon said, "and I think he did.''
Joyce said he felt it was important "to stand up for what I think is right because I feel like I play the game the right way.'' He wouldn't admit to any gloating about the homer, estimated, conservatively, at 422 feet, but did note, "I made sure I held on to the bat for a second longer.''
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]