ST. PETERSBURG — Luke Scott's two-run homer in the fifth inning allowed the Rays to believe they could keep it comin' in a 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the Astros on Saturday.
Right-hander Roberto Hernandez's bounce-back effort ensured they wouldn't give it up.
But a couple of stolen bases and one bunt allowed the Rays to get down on Disco Night and celebrate before K.C. and the Sunshine Band rocked the Tropicana Field crowd of 20,409.
Yunel Escobar stole third with two outs in the fifth and scored on Desmond Jennings' safety-squeeze bunt to tie it at 3. And rookie Wil Myers stole second in the sixth to get in scoring position for Scott's go-ahead single. Manager Joe Maddon always says "fortune favors the bold," and that showed as the Rays (54-41) decided to shake it up.
"That's all on the players," Maddon said. "There were no signs. That was the players playing baseball. They see something, they definitely have our full permission to go. I talk about freedom within our clubhouse.
"I like freedom within the game as well."
In stealing third with two outs, Maddon said you've almost got to be "100 percent" certain. Escobar said he noticed Astros lefty Dallas Keuchel lifting his leg and giving him just one look at second. So on the third pitch, Escobar made the mad dash, sliding into third base safely on a close play.
"After that, a wild pitch or anything could score (a run)," Escobar said through interpreter and bench coach Dave Martinez, "so I took a chance."
Said Maddon: "Everything changes after that happens."
Escobar was prepared in case Jennings bunted but didn't know he would.
"Who expects a 3-1 bunt?" Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist quipped.
Maddon said everything was in place for it to work. First baseman Brett Wallace was playing back, and Keuchel, who fades to his right after his delivery, was the "perfect guy to do it against." Jennings placed a bunt down the first-base line and evaded a tag by Wallace, Escobar crossing home to tie it.
"A brilliant play," Maddon said.
"I loved it," Scott said.
Scott, who extended his season-high hitting streak to nine games with a fifth-inning homer, came up in a tie game in the sixth after Myers' two-out single. Myers, who Maddon says has a great feel for baserunning, swiped second with a headfirst slide to set the table for Scott.
"That was huge," Maddon said.
Scott said that with Myers in scoring position, it changed the dynamic with how Keuchel attacked him. Two pitches later, Scott ripped a changeup to right to knock in the winning run.
"They were the little things that mount up throughout the course of a game," Scott said. "And that's indicative of what we've been doing as a lineup."
The rally enabled Hernandez (5-10) to get his first win since June 11. Hernandez, 0-4 in his previous five starts despite allowing just 18 runs, settled down after allowing three in the first. He pitched six innings for his fourth straight quality start and retired 10 of the final 11 Astros (33-60) he faced.
"He just was assertive," Maddon said.
That's the way the Rays like it.
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.