ANAHEIM, Calif. — The Rays were braced for battle Friday, adjusting their lineup and anticipating a tight duel with Angels ace and major-league ERA leader Jered Weaver.
Instead, they got a laugher and another loud clubhouse celebration, battering Weaver for a career-high nine runs on the way to a 12-3 win.
B.J. Upton led the way with four of their season-high 17 hits, including his fifth homer of the road trip and team-high matching 15th overall, and James Shields worked six innings for this 11th win.
The Rays had been insisting their run of improved play was merely interrupted by a bad error Tuesday night (by Carlos Peña) and an extraordinary pitching performance on Wednesday (a perfect game by Seattle's Felix Hernandez), and halfway to a sweep of the Angels, they appeared to be right.
"We've talked about the fact that we're owed something for the first half of the season offensively,'' manager Joe Maddon said. "We keep grinding it out, nobody's quitting and that's why it comes back to you.''
The win was the ninth in their past 11 games and 14th of 19, improving the Rays' record to 65-54 as they reclaimed the top spot in the wild-card race while remaining six games behind the East-leading Yankees.
They were having such a relaxed time, normally intense and intimidating reliever Kyle Farnsworth grabbed and hugged Wade Davis when they were shown on the stadium videoboard kiss-cam.
Upton has been a catalyst on the 6-2 roadtrip, hitting .344 with five homers and 12 RBIs.
"B.J.'s playing at this higher level,'' Maddon said. "I think the last time I saw something similar to this was the playoffs in 2008. It's fun to watch. You can really see the focus is great, the confidence is soaring. You're starting to see the ability matching expectations. He's in a good place mentally right now.''
The Rays started with solo homers in the first from Upton and in the second from Ben Zobrist (his 14th). Then they piled on in the fourth, scoring seven times as eight consecutive batters reached base, on six hits and two walks, and they sent 10 men to the plate.
The seven runs were their most for any inning this season (and in more than a year), and were more than they scored in 95 of their games.
"(Weaver is) the ERA leader for a reason," Upton said. "I think all of us had the approach to try to stay in the strike zone and get good pitches to hit."
Shields did his part, too, though the third-inning homer he allowed to Erick Aybar did snap the Rays' scoreless streak against the Angels at 34 innings.
The fourth started innocently with a single by Evan Longoria, continuing to show off for the home crowd. Weaver didn't look right in walking Zobrist, then throwing a slow, looping wild pitch behind Jeff Keppinger before walking him to load the bases.
The Rays went into rapid-fire mode from there, rapping five consecutive RBI hits. Singles by Sean Rodriguez and Ryan Roberts scored one each. Jose Molina delivered two with a single. Desmond Jennings doubled in one, and Upton singled in two more.
Upton's night was eventful from the start.
After hitting a ball over the wall in the top of the first, he ran and jumped at the wall — and actually tried to make a barehanded grab when the ball faded on him — in pursuit of Mike Trout's leadoff drive. "I tried it,'' Upton said, "it didn't work.'' Trout ended up with a triple, but Rodriguez, playing third in an unexpected defensive alignment, dived and speared Torii Hunter's liner and turned it into a double play.
"Just a reaction play,'' Rodriguez said.
Everything they're doing seems to be working right now.
"We want to win ballgames any way we can,'' Upton said. "We know our pitching is going to keep us in the game, but I think it takes a little bit of pressure off of them the more runs we can score. That's the good thing and hopefully we can continue to do that.''