ST. PETERSBURG — LHP Jake McGee didn't get too wrapped up in the impressive numbers from his 2⅓-inning relief outing that factored in Thursday's 4-3 win, retiring seven consecutive batters on only 29 pitches.
"I wasn't too good at math, but I know that's pretty good, especially when you get seven straight outs," McGee said. "That's always a good thing."
The entire bullpen has been a key reason for the Rays' recent run of success, allowing only one run over 15⅓ innings in the four-game sweep of Seattle and posting a 1.32 ERA (five runs in 34⅓ innings) over the last 11 games, and with 42 strikeouts.
"A little bit of a rugged beginning, but they're all settling very nicely," manager Joe Maddon said.
The success has been widespread, with RHP Burke Badenhop straightened out, RHP Wade Davis getting more comfortable, LHP J.P. Howell working on a streak of seven scoreless outings, RHP Joel Peralta back to his impressive 2011 form, and RHP Fernando Rodney handling the ninth inning. Rodney leads the AL with nine saves while posting a 0.73 ERA (one earned run in 12⅓ innings) and allowing only a .136 average (6-for-44).
McGee, 25, has again become a big part of it, overcoming his own shaky start, to run off eight consecutive scoreless appearances. He may have had his sharpest outing Thursday, with a fastball in the upper 90s and pinpoint control, a run that started against Minnesota's Justin Morneau on April 22.
"By far today," he said. "I located both sides of the plate with my fastball really well, and my velocity was consistent each inning I went out. … Ever since the Morneau strikeout I've been pitching really well. Going out from the first pitch and just letting it go and trying to hit the corners."
UPTON UPDATE: CF B.J. Upton said the right quad cramping and tightness that forced him from Wednesday's game had subsided enough that he was available to come off the bench Thursday and expects to be back in the starting lineup tonight.
BUSH BAIL REDUCED: A Charlotte County judge reduced bail for minor-league RHP Matt Bush from $1.015 million to $440,000 for his March 22 DUI hit-and-run case, but he likely will remain jailed. Bush's attorney, Russell Kirshy, said, "I don't think there's a chance" he can make bail. Judge John Duryea also mandated that if Bush did post bail, he'd have to have a global positioning system, alcohol monitoring and a curfew.
BUDDY BALL: RHP Jeff Niemann and 2B Will Rhymes grew up together and played on the same youth league and Lamar High School teams in Houston. They enjoyed their first big-league reunion Thursday.
"That was the first time since we played on the same field together since '01," Niemann said. "It was a lot of fun."
"That's pretty special, man," Rhymes said. "I was standing out there thinking about that today. We started playing together when we were like 13; we were on all the same teams, Pony League and all-star teams and all through high school and stuff. That was a while ago now, and it's pretty special to stand out there behind him and try to make plays for him."
ZIMMER RELEASED: Senior adviser Don Zimmer, 81, was released from Palms of Pasadena hospital after a weeklong stay due to kidney problems, his son Tom said, and was "happy to be home." Zimmer is expected to soon begin dialysis treatment.
MISCELLANY: The nine straight home wins match the Rays' second-best streak; they won 11 in a row in 2008. … Today is the annual Tampa Chamber luncheon at the Hyatt Regency; see tampachamber.com for info.
Staff writer Joe Smith contributed to this report.