ST. PETERSBURG — There has been no shortage of oddness in the Rays clubhouse throughout this homestand, with a DJ, a magician, a cockatoo and, on Wednesday, a couple of penguins providing entertainment.
But in the dugout, manager Joe Maddon said, he could sense a more normal energy and "belief in ourselves" that had been missing.
And that has translated to more Rays-like play on the field, as evidenced by their 3-0 win over the Yankees in front of an announced 19,177 at Tropicana Field, a win that capped a 5-1 homestand.
It had all of Tampa Bay's trademarks, from right-hander Alex Cobb's spectacular start to sparkling defense and timely hitting. And after another interesting ninth inning, closer Fernando Rodney shot his imaginary arrow to cap off the Rays' AL-most fifth shutout of the season.
"That's certainly how we've done it in the past," Ben Zobrist said. "If you want to say there's a type of 'Rays win,' that was one of our types of wins."
Cobb (3-1) set the tone with dazzling fastball command, striking out seven and walking one in coming two outs away from his second career shutout. And after Cobb allowed a one-out single in the ninth, the Yankees third hit of the game, Maddon was booed for ending the 106-pitch masterpiece.
Cobb, admittedly tired, understood, tipping his cap to a standing ovation. "(Cobb) controlled that game from the start to when he left the game," Zobrist said. "It was pretty impressive. That's just about as good as we've seen him."
Rodney had some drama in the ninth, allowing a single to Ichiro Suzuki — who beat him with a two-run single in Tuesday's 4-3 Yankees win — to bring the tying run (Robinson Cano) to the plate. But Cano grounded out, and Travis Hafner popped out to end it.
"We got him last night," Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. "But we weren't able to get him tonight."
The Rays (10-11) got to veteran left-hander Andy Pettitte in the fifth. Catcher Jose Molina was hit by a pitch, then moved to third when a Kelly Johnson single went through the legs of rightfielder Brennan Boesch.
It appeared the Rays would squander the golden opportunity when Desmond Jennings and Ryan Roberts struck out. But Zobrist, who had singled earlier in the game, hit a two-run double to right-center.
"That," Roberts said, "was a game-changer."
Zobrist had taken a 2-and-0 slider on the outside corner for a strike, and when Pettitte tried the same pitch again — this time leaving it a little over the plate — he capitalized. "It wasn't a terrible pitch," Pettitte said. "But obviously the wrong pitch at the time."
Sean Rodriguez hit Pettitte's first pitch in the sixth 414 feet over the left-center fence. " 'S-Rod' mangled that ball," Maddon said. "A missile," Zobrist said.
That left the Rays flying to Chicago to start a 10-game road trip feeling like they're finding their identity.
"Just keep on keeping it loose," Maddon said. "And playing hard."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]