BOSTON — Carlos Peña hasn't done much to help during what has been a mostly disappointing return to the Rays. But Wednesday, when they needed it most, he stepped up in a big, loud and long way to help maintain their hopes for another dramatic dash to the playoffs.
Peña hit a massive two-run, go-ahead homer and singled to set up another run as the Rays beat the Red Sox 4-2 to extend their win streak to a season-high-matching seven games, longest in the majors.
"Any time I can contribute," Peña said, "it just feels good."
The Rays were all feeling good, even more so as 10 rookies and first-year players donned panty hose, wigs and one-piece outfits for a "Jane Fonda '80s look" dress-up that included a choreographed dance routine to the pop hit Call Me Maybe, probably the first such show in front of the Green Monster in Fenway Park's 101 seasons.
But while the Rays improved to 85-70, they essentially lost ground as another game came off the schedule — they have seven left — and they didn't get any help, staying 3½ games behind the AL wild-card-leading Orioles, who blasted Toronto, and three behind the A's, who hold the second wild card and beat Texas. They also trail the Angels, who played late against Seattle.
After the Rays beat the Red Sox on Sept. 19 to end a four-game skid and enter the final two weeks of the year, manager Joe Maddon said they'd just about need to pull off a Minnesota Fats — pool lingo for running the table — and Wednesday they got to the halfway point.
"You've seen The Hustler, Jackie Gleason, Paul Newman and the boys," he said. "We've got to go with the Fat Man right now."
Peña has struggled much of the year — it took a recent hot streak to get back above .200 for the first time since early July — and lost his full-time first base job.
But with the Rays down 1-0 in the fifth, and not getting their first hit off lefty Jon Lester until Jeff Keppinger singled ahead of him, Peña came up big with a blast over the centerfield fence and the seats behind it, nearly to the back wall of the ballpark — estimated, conservatively, at 438 feet — for his 19th homer and 58th and 59th RBIs.
"He understands to a certain extent he's underachieved this year offensively," Maddon said. "All he wants to do is help us win. That's what he told me. He doesn't care what it is."
Indeed, Peña said.
As tough as it is "when we don't live up to our own expectations, which I haven't," he said, "it's time I have to let it go and really show up for my team."
Peña was one of several unlikely contributors. Ben Francisco followed Peña's blast with one of his own, and catcher Jose Lobaton added an RBI double.
It was a weird night overall. The Rays made 13 outs before getting their first hit and made their last 11 outs by strikeouts.
All that after starter Alex Cobb was pulled after five unimpressive innings, and 91 pitches, despite allowing only one run. The Rays used five relievers. Fernando Rodney got the final three outs for his 45th save, tying Rafael Soriano's 2010 team record.