NEW YORK — The Rays capped an eventful road trip with a 5-1 win over the Yankees on Sunday marked by two rare events: Wil Myers hitting the 11th inside-the-park homer in franchise history, and Erik Bedard getting his first win as a starter since June.
But the bigger news might be in how the Rays salvaged a road trip that started so poorly — remember the walkoff grand slam and the four-error inning in Chicago? — and finished 5-5, heading home to face the Orioles on Tuesday at 15-17, a game better than they were a year ago.
"One of the best 5-5 trips in the history of the Rays," manager Joe Maddon said. "We lost a couple tough games in Chicago, and that was difficult. But since then I think we've kind of come together a little bit better, and there's a lot of belief within the entire clubhouse."
Bedard made it easier to believe with his best outing as a Ray, mixing a sharp curve and a good-enough fastball to work into the seventh inning, allowing one run and six hits.
The reward was his first win in 15 starts (he did have one in relief in the interim), a second-longest-in-baseball streak dating to June 26, when he was with Houston.
"I didn't realize how long it's been," Bedard said. "It's nice."
A string of disappointing starts, and the residual impact on the bullpen, has been a major problem for the Rays. They were concerned enough going into Sunday that they ditched reliever Heath Bell to bring up starter Nathan Karns from Triple A for the day just in case.
But Bedard, continuing to show signs of progress, alleviated any concerns — at least this day — with an impressive outing, building arm strength and confidence.
"It just keeps getting a little better," Maddon said.
Before Friday's game, Myers said he finally had been feeling better at the plate after a slow first month, and it has started to show.
He actually hit a couple of balls harder later in the game for outs, but his drive off the wall right of center with two on in the third provided plenty of excitement, as well as giving the Rays a 4-1 lead.
As the ball caromed off the top of the wall, then off Yankees centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury's chest and rolled away, Myers, who was jogging to first thinking the ball was gone, kicked into high gear and raced around the bases, scoring easily as the Yankees botched the relay.
"I wasn't stopping for nobody," Myers said. "It was exciting. I had never done that before" — since he was 8 at least, he figured — "and I never thought it would happen."
Add in a couple of more impressive catches by centerfielder Desmond Jennings and solid work by the back end of a bullpen that, with today's off day and a fresh arm coming Tuesday, should finally be caught up, and the Rays headed home feeling a little better about themselves, winning four of the past five to take consecutive series from the rival Red Sox and Yankees.
When Maddon was walking off the field, new catcher Ryan Hanigan told him that was more the kind of game he expected when coming over in trade, more like a Rays kind of a win.
"Good pitching was what I was talking about," Hanigan said. "Some comfortable innings. Some 1-2-3 innings. Relatively good job from everybody. Everybody contributing from the starter to the bullpen. That's what we're trying to do to win some games here. … It's nice. We hadn't had one like this in a while."
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]m. Follow him on Twitter at @TBTimes_Rays.