OAKLAND, Calif. — Evidence had been mounting the past week or so that the Rays had given up their chance to get back to the playoffs. And, depending on the degree of their difficulties as they dropped nine of their previous 12 and 7½ games in the standings, maybe they had just given up.
Thursday, down five runs after a brutal first inning by pitcher Wade Davis and without a hit of their own into the fifth, seemed to be a defining moment.
Instead, it turned out to be what they claim is a definitive sign they remain alive, coming back and hanging on for an odd 10-8 victory over the A's.
"We've had a bad week in a sense," manager Joe Maddon said. "The players have not quit. Our guys don't quit. We've had some real misfortune, bad luck. Baseball luck sometimes works against you. Over 162 games you'd like to think it comes back to you. It only comes back to you if you keep working."
The effort, which improved them to 54-50 and moved them within 10 ½ games of first place in the AL East and within eight of the wild card, was impressive. Davis rebounded to retire 17 straight in working through the sixth, and the hitters delivered a season-high seven-run explosion in the seventh.
"I never want to have that feeling of just folding up the tent and giving up, and I know nobody else in here does," said third baseman Evan Longoria, who had a solo homer in the seventh.
"I think as long as we all stay positive and we all stay on the same page, we're going to get through this. When you have a couple of guys, or even one guy, that starts to think negatively and kind of packs it in, it's cancerous in the clubhouse. I think nobody's got to that point yet. And I think everybody still believes."
Davis couldn't get anything by the A's in his 47-pitch first inning, allowing six straight hits, including a "natural" cycle of single, double, triple, homer to four straight batters. "You didn't really have time to breath," he said.
But, after Longoria promised him they'd get the runs back, Davis took a deep breath, "toned it down a little" and was untouchable the rest of his day, allowing nary another baserunner.
"It felt like he invented a pitch, to tell you the truth," Oakland first baseman Conor Jackson said.
Said Davis: "It's not exactly how you want to win a game, especially from a pitcher's standpoint, but it's a good win for us."
Rays rookie outfielder Desmond Jennings, with multiple hits for the fifth time in six games since his promotion, was the catalyst.
First, with a massive two-run homer to left, his first in the majors, to get the Rays on the board. "There's home runs," Maddon said, "and then there's home runs like that that indicate somebody's raw power."
Then, after the Rays had scored one in the seventh, and walks by pinch-hitter Sam Fuld loaded the bases (which Maddon considered the key) and Sean Rodriguez forced in another, Jennings singled to right to end the team's 0-for-12 string with the bases loaded. That knocked in two runs and put the Rays up 6-5.
Jennings got the ball in exchange for a bat from the fan who caught his homer, but he said the single was more rewarding: "I'll take those two ribbies."
Maddon said it was unfair and disappointing for the subject of quitting to even be raised.
"I think if our guys have proven anything over the years is that we don't do that," he said. "So maybe we've had a bad week. Maybe your kid didn't have a good week at school. Maybe you forgot to turn in a report at work and all of a sudden your boss doesn't like you for a day or two.
"But that doesn't mean you're bad all of a sudden or that you've quit. You just might have screwed up. It comes under the umbrella of being human."