BALTIMORE — The Rays had their reasons to be feeling good after Tuesday's 8-6 win over the Orioles.
They'd come back once with a five-run eighth then came back to win it in the 10th on a three-run homer by Carlos Peña, and they were talking a lot about tenacity and determination and even about 2008.
"That's one of those wins," Peña said, "that are really important."
The theory is that it was the kind of win they could build on and draw from in how they didn't quit, how they found a way to win another close game. Manager Joe Maddon even went somewhere he doesn't normally go, to their 2008 championship season.
"Extra-inning wins on the road are really impressive to me," he said. "In 2008, and I'll make a comparison, we did that. … That always to me is an indication of the tenacity of your group."
But there also was some reason for concern as the bullpen, specifically lefty reliever Randy Choate, nearly cost them again.
Shackled by dazzling rookie Brian Matusz (two infield singles in the first seven innings) and what Maddon termed "absolutely raw" conditions with temps in the 40s after a daylong rain, the Rays — after a decent effort from Jeff Niemann, showing no effects of last week's early knockout — rallied on five singles and a double to take a 5-3 lead in the eighth.
But the bullpen blew it up, Dan Wheeler making the first mistake with a one-out walk and Choate the big one, allowing a two-out, two-run tying homer to lefty Luke Scott.
With J.P. Howell sidelined at least until mid May, the Rays have had to use other relievers, particularly Choate, their lone lefty, in higher-leverage situations. And thus far it hasn't been pretty.
He got racked around in Saturday's loss and gave up a two-run game-deciding homer to Jorge Posada on Sunday then Monday's blast by Scott. Choate has faced 15 batters this season (over five games) and nine have gotten hits.
Maddon said it's simply a matter of Choate's sinker not sinking, and insisted, "I have not lost confidence and he'll be right back out there (today) in the same situation."
Choate didn't sound too sure what the problem was.
"You can come ask me questions, I can beat my brains out, I don't know," he said. "I don't know if it's not the same confidence, when it rains it pours, whatever you want to use, I can't explain it.
"Maybe I just need to get p----- off and go out there and pitch, and this definitely did that for me. Not that the other two (games) didn't make me mad but this one really did it. You can't come in and get out a guy when it's specifically your job? You better start doing something right."
There was some solace for Choate in how it ended. When the batter after Scott reached on an error, Peña came to the mound to console him.
"He said, 'Don't worry, popi, I'll pick you up, I'll take care of it,' " Choate recalled.
Peña admitted he was speaking in generalities about hoping to get the opportunity and didn't really know how it was going to end — that Ben Zobrist and Evan Longoria were going to walk to open the 10th and that he was going to crush Matt Albers' 2-and-2 fastball over the rightfield fence.
"So," Peña said, "I'm glad the story kind of ended that way."
Marc Topkin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.