HOUSTON — Rays manager Joe Maddon still believes instant replay is a "work in progress."
But it worked pretty well in Tampa Bay's favor in Sunday's game.
With the Rays trailing the Astros 3-2 in the sixth inning and runners on first and third, CF Desmond Jennings appeared to hit into a rally-killing, inning-ending double play.
But Maddon raced out of the dugout to issue a challenge. And after 1 minute, 52 seconds, the out call at first was overturned. That allowed SS Yunel Escobar to score from third to tie it.
Maddon called video coordinator Chris Fernandez "the star of the game."
"I did not think we were going to get that one," Maddon said. "We've had others that should have gone our way that did not. If they called it the other way, it'd be, 'Here we go again.' But you've got to keep going out there."
Maddon won for the seventh time in 24 challenges; nine calls have stood — meaning replay could not provide clear evidence to overturn them — and eight have been confirmed. Maddon argued before Sunday's game that the replay rules should be changed so if a call stands, as opposed to being confirmed, the manager doesn't lose his challenge.
"Basically they're saying, 'It could have gone either way,' as opposed to a play that's been confirmed, where I was wrong totally as a manager," Maddon said. "I like instant replay. I think we knew there was going to be items that need to be polished up."
IN CLOSING: Though Maddon is going with closer-by-committee, he liked LHP Jake McGee on Sunday to protect a one-run lead in the ninth.
McGee, who picked up his second career save, said he had "a little more adrenaline" knowing it was a close game. "Little more pressure situation to get the last three outs," McGee said.
But after he gave up a one-out single and INF Sean Rodriguez botched what Maddon thought was a routine double play, McGee shut the door.
"Didn't look any different than the seventh or eighth inning," Maddon said. "Looked exactly the same."
PITCHING IN: RHP Jake Odorizzi believes his last start could be season- or career-turning, hoping it'll carry over into tonight's series opener against the Orioles. Odorizzi threw a career-high 71/3 innings Tuesday, allowing one run in a 1-0 loss to the Cardinals. "It's kind of an eye-opening situation," he said. "Trying to go out and execute a new game plan and it works that well the first time out, it's like, 'Why didn't I do this in my previous outings?' It was a good building point, a mental standpoint and statistical (one) both matched up for a full game. When things go that way, it puts it in your head you can do that every time out."
IN THE SWING: Though 3B Evan Longoria has picked up his offense lately, with six RBIs in his past four games, he said he still hasn't found his groove. Longoria had a double Sunday. "There hasn't been a time where I've been real, real comfortable," he said. "But if I can continue to try to find a way to produce a little bit, hopefully that stretch will come where it feels a little bit easier."
MEDICAL MATTERS: OF Brandon Guyer (left thumb) played rightfield and batted second for Triple-A Durham on Sunday, his second rehab game. Maddon said he expects Guyer to rejoin the Rays when the outfielder is ready but wants to make sure he gets enough at-bats first. … RHP Jeremy Hellickson threw a bullpen session Saturday and will make his third rehab start Tuesday for Durham in Louisville.
MISCELLANY: RF Kevin Kiermaier's 12 extra-base hits in his first 21 career games are the most in Rays history, topping Delmon Young's 11 in 2007. … The Rays' streak of three games with the same lineup ended, with C Jose Molina starting over Ryan Hanigan. … First-round draft pick Casey Gillaspie hit his first professional homer, a two-run shot for short-season Class A Hudson Valley.
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What's new: The Orioles (35-33), in third in the AL East, are without C Matt Wieters (right elbow), who has been on the disabled list since May 11 and is scheduled to see Dr. James Andrews today. 3B Manny Machado is playing as he appeals a five-game suspension for throwing his bat June 8 against the A's. OF Nelson Cruz leads the AL with 21 homers and 56 RBIs.
Key stat: Orioles pitchers have allowed 14 runs in their past seven games, with five coming in Sunday's loss to the Blue Jays.
Connections: O's OF/DH Delmon Young was the Rays' No. 1 draft pick in 2003; RHP Ryan Webb is a Clearwater native. Rays LHP Erik Bedard is an ex-Oriole.
Series history: The Orioles have won all five previous meetings this season, including a three-game sweep at Tropicana Field in May. The overall series is 141-141; the Rays lead 76-67 at the Trop.
Joe Smith, Times staff writer