ST. PETERSBURG — There was so much that came out of Monday's wild 6-4 win over the Rangers, not the least of which was the game the Rays gained in the AL East standings to move back into a first-place tie with the Yankees.
But it was how the Rays did it, running and hustling and making dazzling plays then rallying for four runs in the eighth off the typically untouchable Cliff Lee — Cliff Lee! — that could mean the most.
Especially if they were to meet again in October.
"When you beat the best pitcher in baseball in the eighth inning when he's up, that to me is impactful among your group," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "That's the part I like. … He's got it pretty much. That's a game he normally puts away right there. We were able to come back and do some good things. So you beat a guy that good that late, that's got to do something for your confidence."
"We try not to put too much emphasis on one game or the other," Evan Longoria said, "but (Monday) was a huge moral victory I think for us."
"That was huge," David Price said. "I guess that's Rays baseball."
The Rays (72-46) made it interesting and entertaining, with a pretty solid pitching performance from their own ace, Price, along with some dazzling defense and some weird plays, topped by the old ball-down-the-shirt trick by second baseman Sean Rodriguez. They led 2-0, fell behind 4-2 then rallied for the victory, though only 18,319 were at Tropicana Field to see it.
"Kind of a nice win, wasn't it?" Maddon said.
Eventful, too, as the Rays beat Lee for the third time this season, leaving him 0-3, 4.56 against them, 10-3, 2.48 against everyone else. (Plus, they got their first run after he walked Carlos Peña to open the fifth — the first walk Lee allowed to a lefty hitter all season and just the second to lead off an inning.)
By the end of the night, Lee wasn't sure exactly what hit him as the Rays, trailing 4-2 with one out in the eighth, strung together five hits and took advantage of some shaky defense by second baseman Joaquin Arias to score four runs.
B.J. Upton's popup that eluded Arias in shallow right for a bloop double got them started, then Jason Bartlett got them going, first with an infield single then with tremendous hustle — "the biggest event (Monday night) for us to win," Maddon said — to second as Arias, for some reason, went for the out there rather than first on Carl Crawford's grounder, all as Upton scored.
Longoria singled in the tying run, then Peña the one that put them ahead. Ben Zobrist added an insurance run.
"Things kind of fell apart right there," Lee said. "I don't know why; I don't know. It was kind of a blur of an inning. It was a strange inning.
"I threw strikes; they got hits. I could remember two balls they hit hard. … It's not like they were driving the ball all over the ballpark. It was infield hits and little bloopers. They were just fighting, and that's why they're a good team. They never give up.
"You've got to give credit to those guys for battling back. They earned it."
Well, there's that, too.
"If you put your head down and you've got Cliff Lee pitching and you stop pushing, game's over," Maddon said. "So composure and perseverance, I mean if we could just remember that on a daily basis, I'd be really pleased."
Marc Topkin can be reached at [email protected]