ST. PETERSBURG — Pat Burrell could have been talking about vindication because the Phillies decided to let him go after nine seasons. Validation. Even retribution.
But after hitting a two-run homer and driving in another run that led his new team, the Rays, to a much-needed 7-1 victory over his old team Wednesday night, Burrell was most pleased simply about his contribution.
"It's fun because I know the team and everything like that," Burrell said of the Phils. "But more importantly for me, it's just being back on the field and being able to contribute and help us win. I think that's No. 1."
Burrell didn't do it all. Matt Garza got the World Series payback he was looking for with a strong eight-inning start to snap a six-game winless streak. And Jason Bartlett tied Quinton McCracken's 1998 team record by extending his hitting streak to 18 games, blooping a single in his final at-bat in the middle of the Rays' five-run eighth.
The crisp win also featured hustle and dandy defense, and improved the Rays to 38-35. But it wasn't all good. Third baseman Evan Longoria left after feeling "a twinge" in the same left hamstring that forced him to miss a week this month, though he and the Rays said it wasn't serious.
And despite all the conversation generated by team president Matt Silverman's public disappointment over Tuesday's attendance (19,608), Wednesday's crowd was even smaller: an announced 18,862.
Burrell hasn't done much since signing a two-year, $16 million deal with the Rays, struggling when he has been playing and missing five weeks with a neck strain.
The 407-foot homer to left-center off Joe Blanton was just his second of the season, ending career-long stretches of 104 at-bats and 33 games, and his sixth extra-base hit.
He and manager Joe Maddon said they believed the big night could be the start of something akin to an evening out of his season. Burrell averaged 31 homers and 99 RBIs the previous four seasons.
"I hope so," Burrell said. "You can feel as good as you want, but if you don't have the results, it doesn't really matter. They brought me over here to play, so it's nice to be healthy, and it's nice to contribute and be a factor in a game."
Maddon noted how Burrell's hands "are becoming more alive" as he swings. "I really believe he's going to get real toasty," Maddon said. "And I think it's going to be prolonged."
Down the hall at Tropicana Field, Phillies shortstop Jimmy Rollins, who saw many of Burrell's 251 homers with Philadelphia, saw a good sign for Burrell, too.
"You hit a ball like that with that swing, sometimes you can take it for a while," Rollins said. "We've seen him take that swing and carry it for a long time. So hopefully he's able to turn it around — after (tonight)."
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel joked that he'd said hi to Burrell but "if he starts hitting us like that, I won't ever say hello to him."
Apart from some steady chatter with catcher Carlos Ruiz, Burrell said there wasn't much talking with his old mates, especially after the homer.
But whether he'd admit it or not, his new teammates knew what it meant.
"I'm sure it felt good for him," said Longoria. "I know he doesn't really care whether it's against them or anybody else, he just wants to produce. But it probably feels a little bit better."