ST. PETERSBURG — Manager Joe Maddon said he believes in the "ebb and flow" of a season, and considering the Rays' struggles — and injuries — so far, "the flow needs to come right now."
And Maddon would like to believe it started to in some ways during Tuesday night's 4-2 victory over the Indians in front of 15,712 at Tropicana Field. The win, just their seventh in the past 19, kept the Rays (47-44) percentage points back of the second wild-card spot.
"To get the momentum in our favor is extremely powerful," first baseman Carlos Peña said.
On a night when Tampa Bay got one of its best hitters, Matt Joyce, back from the disabled list, two of its biggest offseason acquisitions came through.
Peña and Luke Scott have seen their batting averages drop to around .200, watching hard-hit balls disappear into the shift. But the two combined to knock in all three runs in a first-inning rally, with Peña — who was pinch-hit for in a key situation late in Monday's loss — delivering a two-run homer.
"It felt great to contribute," Peña said.
Said Maddon: "That got us going."
Rookie left-hander Matt Moore started as if he were headed for a special night, pitching two perfect innings (on just 19 pitches) and carrying a no-hitter into the fourth. But Moore, who hadn't pitched in 10 days, said he began to lose his feel and mechanics in the middle of the game, resulting in five walks, a hit batter and an early exit after 90 pitches in the sixth.
"I just felt great (early)," he said. "But in 4-5-6, I just didn't feel like I had the same giddy-up."
Moore battled out of jams, allowing just two runs. He stranded runners on second and third in the fourth and got Jose Lopez to fly out to left with the bases loaded in the fifth.
Said Peña: "I told him afterward, 'You had guts.' "
And the bullpen had a stellar night, with Wade Davis, Joel Peralta, Burke Badenhop and Fernando Rodney holding the Indians scoreless. Maddon said Davis, who relieved Moore in the sixth and got four outs, was the "key to the game pitching-wise."
"That was our whole win," Moore said of the bullpen. "They saved my butt."
The Rays added a much-needed insurance run in the sixth. Desmond Jennings, who continued his resurgence in the bottom part of the lineup, reached on a fielder's choice and stole second with two outs, the first steal off Indians righty Josh Tomlin since Sept. 24, 2010. Catcher Jose Lobaton then hit an RBI single to right to make it 4-2.
It was the kind of late rally, and moment, that has evaded the Rays for most of this season. They hope it's a sign of things to come.
"We've put it together here and there over the course of the year, we just haven't really had our big streak yet," said centerfielder B.J. Upton, who had two hits in the leadoff spot. "It's going to happen if we keep doing the little things like we have been lately. We've been playing in some close ballgames and, like Joe said, things are starting to roll our way a little bit. So hopefully we can keep it going."
Joe Smith can be reached at [email protected]