BALTIMORE — Getting a team over a crushing defeat like the Rays endured Thursday night can be challenging,
Manager Joe Maddon was encouraged that despite the ninth-inning blown lead the day before against the Red Sox that so many players participated and enjoyed the camo dress-up theme for the trip north.
He took it as a good sign there was the usual upbeat mood on the plane despite the 3 a.m. arrival time. He was absolutely thrilled when the Rays came out swinging Friday against the Orioles and put up a season-high dozen runs in the first six innings.
And then, just when it looked like the Rays were indeed over it, they just about made things even worse.
"It would have been horrific in baseball terms," Maddon said.
But flirting with the unimaginable has been commonplace as the Rays nearly blew another big lead, frittering away most of a comfortable eight-run advantage with six outs to go before hanging on for a 12-10 victory.
"There's all the psychological things working in the background right now," Maddon said.
"It's like the spyware in the background, all that goofy stuff, and you've got to get rid of it. And you've got to get rid of it by just keep playing well."
Until the eighth inning, the Rays (21-20) played rather well. Combining a relentless offense (Kelly Johnson and Yunel Escobar had three hits each, four others had two) with some dazzling defense (especially from third baseman Evan Longoria) to build a big enough margin that — go ahead and say it — surely even lead-averse Jeremy Hellickson couldn't blow.
But then …
Maddon wanted Hellickson to get through the eighth, allowing the Rays to rest their usual late-inning relievers, but that didn't happen. He allowed hits to four of the six batters he faced and three runs to make it 12-7.
"I wanted to get through the eighth, too," Hellickson said. "I couldn't finish off that inning. It's pretty disappointing. I'm really happy we scored 12 runs."
Hellickson insists he doesn't change his approach with a lead, even though the numbers and results show otherwise. The problem Friday wasn't a lack of aggressiveness as had been the case, but one of command. Still, the results were bad.
"It's just frustrating," he said. "I threw strikes. … I felt like every mistake I made they made me pay for it."
Needing one out, Maddon turned next to Kyle Farnsworth, who looked bad again — and you wonder if not soon done (8.38 ERA, 18 hits in 9⅔ innings) — giving up a single, then a three-run homer to Chris Dickerson that made it 12-10.
When Farnsworth allowed an infield single to Yamaico Navarro that brought the tying run to the plate, Maddon had to do what he didn't want to, bring in Joel Peralta, and warm up closer Fernando Rodney, who, as a result, might be unavailable today.
"The thinking there is you have a big lead, you're trying to rest your bullpen, 'Let's go. Let's go.' That should be able to happen on a night like (Friday)," Maddon said. "And it did not."
Peralta saved them, as he does so often as a setup man without much credit, getting the final four outs.
"That was big, man," Peralta said. "We've been blowing some games, so tonight was really special for me."
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]com.