Sean Rodriguez said Thursday was special and emotional, getting to witness his wife, Giselle, give birth to their fourth child, a 9-pound boy named Zekiel Cruz.
But as much as the proud father cherished the moment, Rodriguez said it was tough watching his teammates play on television and he had extra motivation to return Friday.
"He knew there was a lefty pitching," Rays manager Joe Maddon said, smiling.
Rodriguez, who starts against most left-handers, showed why in a 8-1 victory over the Rangers, hitting a three-run homer off veteran Joe Saunders and matching a career high with four RBIs. But his son wasn't far from his mind - or body - as Rodriguez wore a white Bayfront Baby Place bracelet on his left wrist.
Rodriguez's exploits helped the Rays (3-2) win their second straight, in front of 14,304, at Tropicana Field and give rookie right-hander Jake Odorizzi his first victory. Odorizzi, named the fifth starter late in spring training, carefully navigated a dangerous Rangers lineup, holding it hitless until the fourth. Odorizzi finished with six shutout innings while scattering three hits in a 95-pitch outing.
The Rays handed Odorizzi an early lead after nearly squandering a bases-loaded opportunity in the first. But with two outs, Rodriguez got hit by a Saunders pitch, bringing in a run.
Then in the third, Rodriguez ripped a one-out, three-run homer into the leftfield seats, making it 4-0.
Odorizzi had to wiggle his way out of a jam in the fourth and got help from a big Rangers baserunning blunder. After singles by Prince Fielder and Alex Rios, Mitch Moreland slapped another one to rightfield. But Fielder held up at third base, forcing a log jam of the other runners. Fielder ended up caught in a rundown, and Odorizzi struck out the next batter, Donnie Murphy, to thwart the threat.
The Rays added another insurance run in the fourth with Desmond Jennings hitting a double and scoring when Wil Myers, who returned to the lineup after being sick Thursday, singled to center. Two batters later, Saunders left the game after getting struck on the left ankle by an Evan Longoria liner.
But the new daddy's big day wasn't over.
Rodriguez, starting at first base, made a diving stop in the fifth to rob Leonys Martin of a single. Rodriguez then led off the bottom half with a double to left-center. The Rangers would make two of their four errors during Brandon Guyer's ensuing at-bat, Fielder dropping a routine popup in foul territory and third baseman Adrian Beltre bobbling a grounder, the first of two errors by the Gold Glove winner.
That set up catcher Ryan Hanigan to deliver a three-run homer, his first as a Ray, making it 8-0.
Everything went right for the Rays as Maddon successfully used his first challenge under the new instant replay system in the seventh to preserve Myers' inning-ending sliding catch in right.
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.