ST. PETERSBURG — The 13 runs, the 15 hits, the 10 walks the Rays posted Wednesday brought some smiles back to their faces and noise into their clubhouse.
"Definitely," Ben Zobrist said, "a welcome sight for everyone."
But the real value of the 13-3 win over the Red Sox that snapped the Rays' four-game losing streak and, at least temporarily, halted their free fall out of the AL playoff chase won't be known until tonight, when they have to go out and do it again.
"A lot of this is confidence," manager Joe Maddon said. "I really would like to see a carryover effect (tonight). Not that many runs, but I'm talking good at-bats, hitting the ball hard, flying around the field, believing that we can do something positive and good right now."
There was plenty of that Wednesday as they matched their season high in runs, their 15 hits — with every starter having at least one, and Carlos Peña the biggest — the most since a season-high 18 on Sept. 2, and the 10 walks matching their season high.
Add in rookie Chris Archer's first major-league win — after what was actually the least impressive of his five appearances — and a return of their dazzling defense, with Evan Longoria making a diving play at third.
The victory improved the Rays to 79-70 and, at worst, moved them within 5½ games of the second wild-card spot as the A's lost and the Orioles played late at Seattle, though with the Angels and Tigers also ahead of them, with 13 games left. (They fell 6½ behind the East-leading Yankees, who swept a doubleheader.)
"I think everybody was just kind of relaxed," rightfielder Matt Joyce said. "We came a little late to the park, we didn't really try to force anything to happen."
After having clips of their past playoff appearances playing on the clubhouse TVs on Tuesday, Maddon backed way off Wednesday, eliminating pregame work and pushing back their time to be dressed and ready to 6 p.m. Obviously, it will be the same today.
The decision to start Archer didn't look particularly good as the 23-year-old was not sharp, his command off and velocity down. But he battled through five innings and was rewarded, including the customary beer shower.
"The sweetest tasting beer I've ever had, that's for sure," he said.
Down 3-2 in the fourth before 12,708, they tied it when Jeff Keppinger led off with a homer and went ahead for good on a massive two-run shot by Peña, the hardest ball he has hit in weeks.
They piled on from there with a seven-run, 12-batter sixth, combining four hits, six walks (including two with the bases loaded) and two errors to match their biggest frame of the season.
Though Maddon made an old-school reference to just about needing a Minnesota Fats — that's pool lingo for running the table — he claimed he didn't know, and didn't want to know, exactly where they stood in the convoluted playoff race beyond noting they were still alive.
"It's just about us winning and not worrying about everybody else," he said. "We've got to keep the blinders on and if we do our thing eventually, possibly, somebody will come back to us.
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]