ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Rays were ready for a pajama party Wednesday night.
After blowing a three-run lead in the eighth, they rallied in the 10th and hung on for a 4-3 win, scoring their first-ever series sweep at Angel Stadium before heading out the door in their sleepwear for the overnight flight to Baltimore.
"It was a fun three days,'' manager Joe Maddon said, before pulling on his customized one-piece.
The winning rally wasn't much of one, but it was good enough. John Jaso walked, went to second on an infield dribbler by pinch-hitter Evan Longoria, made a mad dash to brazenly steal third when Reid Brignac pulled back on a bunt attempt, then scored when Brignac perfectly pushed a bunt toward first.
Kyle Farnsworth, after a one-out walk (just his second of the season) and a leaping catch at the centerfield wall by B.J. Upton, finished for his 13th save in 14 tries.
"I think it just shows what kind of a team we are,'' said Rays starter James Shields.
The Rays have been coming to Southern California for 14 years now, but never have they had a trip like this. Besides the stomach flu that floored a half-dozen players, and their unusual attire (beachwear into town, sleepwear on the way out), it was the first time in 21 tries they won all the games. Of the first 20, they were swept eight times, and lost 14 overall.
"We played well the whole time,'' Maddon said. "Great energy in the dugout in spite of all the illness we had going throughout the team. ... I'm very proud of the guys, the way we fought back. I've always talked about the importance of winning extra-inning games on the road, and that really being the mark of a good baseball team.''
The Rays (33-29) stayed 2½ games behind the first-place Red Sox in the AL East, as they take a 4-3 record thus far on the 11-game road trip as they head next to Baltimore for the weekend and then a one-game makeup in Detroit on Monday.
Brignac earned "player of the game" honors from Maddon for his bunt, third-inning home run (his first of the season) and a handful of dazzling defensive plays.
"Today was a good day,'' Brignac said.
But Jaso made the play of the day, breaking — on his own — from second to third with no outs as third baseman Alberto Callaspo was charging as Brignac pulled back on a bunt attempt.
"Talk to (Jaso) about that,'' Maddon said. "It was huge. It was immense. It was grand. It was something he saw.''
Which was ...
"I can't give away all my secrets,'' Jaso said. "I guess I kind of saw an opening in my head. That was kind of one of those plays where it looks great tonight but if I was out I'd look really, really dumb. So I'm just kind of glad it all worked out.
"We kind of got more momentum going and Reid laid down that nice bunt and got me to score, and here we are packing up and going on the plane happy.''
The Rays looked to be in good position going to the eighth, as Shields was sharp, scattering six hits and rising to the occasion to not allow a run, and they scored three off Angels ace Jered Weaver — on a home run by Brignac (who also made a dazzling diving catch at short), a double by Justin Ruggiano and a triple by Ben Zobrist.
But when Shields got in a jam in the eighth, loading the bases on a hit batter, a single and a walk on his 101st pitch, Maddon didn't give him the chance to get out of it. Instead, with veteran Bobby Abreu at the plate, Maddon went to the bullpen, and lefty Cesar Ramos needed only two pitches to show that was the wrong move, allowing a three-run double that tied the score.
Maddon said it was an easy decision, just a bad pitch by Ramos. "Hit batter, base hit, walk — the walk is the decision right there,'' he said. "(Shields) had been doing so well, everything was under control and he was not missing, and all of a sudden he was missing.''
Shields, looking to rebound from his season-worst start, was pleased with his outing, working into the eighth, allowing seven hits, striking out eight. "For the most part, I thought I pitched pretty well tonight,'' he said. "I'll take that every five days right there, keep the team in the game.''
The Rays stayed in the game because Joel Peralta got them out of the eighth, Juan Cruz zipped through the ninth and then Farnsworth was able to finish off the 10th.
The Rays took a 1-0 lead in the third in unlikely fashion, on a home run by Brignac that just cleared the short wall in the rightfield corner.
That's the same Brignac who had only one extra-base hit (a double May 12 in Cleveland) in his first 122 at-bats, the fewest of any major-leaguer with 100 or more at-bats, and had the lowest slugging percentage (.189) to go along with the second lowest on-base percentage (.213) and seventh-lowest average (.180).
They doubled the margin in the seventh when Matt Joyce dropped a single into right and came around on Ruggiano's, continuing to take advantage of increased playing time, double off the rightfield wall.
They made it 3-0 when Johnny Damon, extending his on-base streak to 34 games, drew a walk and scored on a triple by Zobrist.
Longoria returned as a pinch-hitter in the 10th, having been out the previous two games with a severe version of the flu.
"We found a way,'' Upton said.
Marc Topkin can be reached at email@example.com.