ST. PETERSBURG — As Rays starter Jake Odorizzi left the game in the eighth inning of Saturday's 8-0 win over Houston, umpire Manny Gonzalez tossed the right-hander a game ball to help him remember his one-hit, 10-strikeout gem.
Odorizzi stuffed the unexpected souvenir in his back pocket and walked to the dugout, tipping his hat to the standing ovation from the 17,551 fans at Tropicana Field who saw the 11th one-hitter in club history.
"A lot of things went right (Saturday)," Odorizzi said. "A lot of things went right for us as a team in general."
Starting with Odorizzi, who entered Saturday holding opponents to a .139 batting average the first time through the order but was at .342 after that. True to form, Odorizzi retired the first 10 batters he faced before weakening in the fourth, the inning in which opponents have scored 17 of their 37 runs against him.
Major-league hits leader Jose Altuve knocked a grounder off Odorizzi's right cleat for Houston's only hit. Odorizzi said he was 90 percent sure shortstop Yunel Escobar couldn't have thrown out the speedy Altuve even if the ball had missed him, but Odorizzi might have been able to stop the ball if he had twisted his foot quickly enough.
"Tough luck," Odorizzi said.
It looked like the tough luck might continue for the Rays (30-46).
Odorizzi started overthrowing and walked the batter after Altuve to bring up slugger Jon Singleton with one out. But instead of caving, Odorizzi stuck with his fastball and stayed aggressive.
"It was just getting back in that zone I was in," Odorizzi said.
He struck out Singleton on an 83 mph slider and forced Matt Dominguez to fly out to keep the Rays' ninth shutout of the season intact. Odorizzi allowed only one walk after that before leaving after 71/3 innings, tying his career high, and earning his first win since May 14.
"He was just on fire (Saturday)," leftfielder Brandon Guyer said.
So were the rest of the Rays, who clinched the season series over Houston. James Loney's three RBIs led the team's best offensive performance in a month, and Brad Boxberger and Kirby Yates combined to retire Houston's last five batters.
Manager Joe Maddon said he had never doubted that Odorizzi could figure out how to go deeper into games. His bigger concern had been trying to teach the promising 24-year-old to keep pounding his low 90s fastball across the strike zone. That pitch was responsible for eight of his 10 strikeouts Saturday and a large reason for Odorizzi's career-high 22 swings and misses.
"You've got to be patient sometimes," Maddon said. "Patience can be rewarded."
Saturday, Odorizzi stuffed that reward into his back pocket as he walked off the field from the best performance of his young career.
Times staff writer Matt Baker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @MBakerTBTimes.