DENVER — The Rays didn't get off to a good start Friday as Matt Moore showed he actually wasn't going to win them all with his first rough outing after five consecutive victories.
And though it took them 10 innings, a few missed opportunities and several anxious moments to get there, the Rays finished up well with a 7-4 win over the Rockies.
"That's the kind of game I expect to see our team win: late, tight, on the road," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
"We needed that,'' Evan Longoria said. "We definitely needed that.''
The Rays took the lead when Ben Zobrist doubled to open the 10th and Longoria — trying to stay up the middle so he could at least move the runner — singled Zobrist in, his first go-ahead RBI in extra innings since his Game 162 heroics in 2011. Kelly Johnson then stretched the lead with a two-run homer.
"That was tremendous, and of course Kelly coming through,'' Maddon said. "The extra runs are very nice. This ballpark can give it up very quickly.''
Though Moore lasted only five innings, the Rays got strong work from their bullpen, six relievers combining for 15 outs. Fernando Rodney got the last three, though he allowed a pair of hits, including one to ex-Ray Reid Brignac.
But more important may have been the three in the eighth as Jake McGee and Brandon Gomes, two relievers who hadn't been getting the job done, did, with some help from Maddon's unconventional strategy,
"Pretty impressive,'' Maddon said.
After McGee allowed back-to-back one-out singles, putting runners on first and third, Maddon had him intentionally walk pinch-hitting Rockies star Troy Tulowitzki to load the bases. It worked, as McGee then overpowered Eric Young for the second out.
"Jake's been struggling a bit and I thought that was a great moment for him right there and I thought it was a really good moment to get him out there,' Maddon said.
Next was Gomes, who calmly got Jordan Pacheco, who got a quick scouting report from Brignac that didn't help, looking at strike three.
"How about Gomer? Bases loaded, nice and calm,'' Maddon said. "You talk about growth moments that's outstanding for Gomer.''
Said Gomes: "That was a big out there obviously for a lot of reasons. It was really nice to just get the job done and give us a chance in the next few innings
Longoria saw it much the same way.
"I felt like Jake really needed that as a confidence booster/builder for himself; he makes a big pitch and gets a strikeout there,'' Longoria said. "And Gomes has been throwing the ball well but hasn't really had stuff go his way, so that's a huge out for him to get. So those were really big moments.''
The Rays improved to 13-15 with the victory in their first interleague game of the season. It was the first time in 12 days they gained ground in the American League East, and even odder - they were the only AL East team not just to win Friday, but to score as the Jays, Orioles, Red Sox and Yankees were all shutout.
Maybe it was the effects of pitching in hitter-friendly Coors Field, or maybe he was just due, but Moore didn't look much like the pitcher who sailed through April 5-0 with a 1.13 ERA and allowed only four runs total.
On Friday, wearing short sleeves because he said he likes pitching in cooler temperatures — first pitch was 57 degrees — Moore got off to a rough start and exited early, allowing the leadoff man and at least one other to reach in each of his five innings. He allowed a season-high four runs and seven hits, including homers in the first two innings, plus four walks. Only 53 of his 101 pitches were strikes.
"Fastball command obviously wasn't there,'' Maddon said. "In general he did not look comfortable. Did not see that real comfort zone where he felt good about getting into a rhythm and just pitching. Nothing was really on - velocity, location. Nothing was really on, but he got us through five innings.''
In the first, Moore allowed a leadoff single and a two-out homer to former Twins star Michael Cuddyer. In the second, he surrendered a leadoff homer to Josh Rutledge.
Though Moore didn't allow a run, the fourth was troubling, too, as he walked No. 8 hitter Jonathan Herrera and then pitcher Jeff Francis. And after the Rays handed him a 4-3 lead in the fifth, Moore gave it right back, walking Cuddyer to start the inning, then giving up a one-out double to Nolan Arenado.
Moore said the problem was simple:: "It was about me making adjustments.''
For being down 3-0 after two innings, the Rays did a good job taking the lead. They got two in the third, the rally starting somewhat unconventionally with an infield single by catcher Jose Lobaton, and Moore, rather than bunting, moving him up a base by grounding out. With one out, Ryan Roberts and Zobrist rapped back to back RBI doubles.
They got two more in the fifth more expeditiously, Lobaton, who had a career-high matching three hits, getting them started again with a double. With one out Desmond Jennings crushed a homer to center.