Monday, February 19, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays down A's

ST. PETERSBURG — Evan Longoria said the pregame players-only meeting Friday wasn't of "dire need."

But after a rough first few weeks, filled with bad breaks and tough losses, Longoria and catcher Jose Molina spearheaded a short gathering.

Players were complimented for what they were doing right and told not to panic and to stay patient.

"It was basically, 'We're 16 games in,' " Longoria said. "Just trust the work that we've put in."

And after the Rays responded with an 8-3 victory over the red-hot A's in front of 15,115 at Tropicana Field, they're hoping it's a sign of good things to come.

Tampa Bay (6-10) isn't a finished product, but buoyed by a strong start by right-hander Alex Cobb, a resurgent offense and more sparkling defense, closer Fernando Rodney got to shoot his trademark imaginary arrow after starting a 1-2-3 double play to end the game.

"I still think we're searching for an identity as a group," manager Joe Maddon said. "But I like what we're doing right now. I think it's on the horizon."

Maddon said the Rays, who arrived about 3 a.m. from Baltimore after a 2-7, three-city road trip, could have said, "Here we go again," after trailing by two runs in the first. But Tampa Bay bounced back with a four-run rally, including their first bases-loaded hit of the season.

Ben Zobrist had one of his two RBI singles, but DH Shelley Duncan said Sean Rodriguez had the biggest hit of the game, keeping the inning alive by going from a 1-and-2 count to 3-and-2 and ripping a two-out, RBI single.

"That gave us some momentum," Duncan said.

Jose Lobaton followed with a two-run single, ending the Rays' season-opening 0-for-12 stretch with the bases loaded. Longoria added a two-run homer in the Rays' three-run fourth, his fourth homer of the season.

"It was a great game to kind of open the floodgates and score some runs," Longoria said. "And prove to ourselves that we can put up runs offensively."

The eight runs matched the Rays' highest output of the season (April 3 against Baltimore), and they went 7-for-12 with runners in scoring position.

That was more than enough for Cobb, who settled in after his rough first to throw five straight scoreless innings.

Maddon said his team still has to do some things better, but "it's all about confidence and believing."

"It only matters where you're at at the end of the season," Longoria said. "We'll figure out a way to right the ship so to speak and get back on track. And (Friday) was a good start."

     
                               
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