HOUSTON TThe scoreboard showed Astros highlights Monday night after the home team went down in order in the seventh inning. The montage included a pair of hits, some defensive plays by the infield and live shots of the mascot teasing a fan. It was that kind of night for the Astros. It was that kind of night for the Rays, too. The Rays were the latest team to hit Minute Maid Park, and they hit it hard. Anyone worried about them suffering a letdown against the lowly Astros after taking the wind out of the Blue Jays' 11-game winning streak and staring down the Tigers during the recent homestand? "I was a little bit," Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Not to worry. The Rays rolled to a 12-0 victory, which enabled them to remain in third place in the American League East, a half-game ahead of the Yankees. They've won six of their last eight and eight of their last 12. Matt Moore allowed two hits and struck out nine in seven innings for his third straight victory, improving to 11-3 on the year. "It's always about the pitching," Maddon said. "Matt finished really strong, I thought, and that was really, really important moving forward." Moore allowed just one Astro to reach second base and retired the last 10 batters he faced. He said he worked well with catcher Jose Lobaton. All those runs didn't hurt, either. "It was fun to watch," he said of the offense. The Rays tied their season high of 12 runs. Their 17 hits were two shy of their season high. Leading the way was Ryan Roberts (two home runs, three RBIs), Sam Fuld (three hits, two RBIs), Sean Rodriguez (career-high four hits and three RBIs) and Lobaton (second consecutive three-hit game). "There were different heroes," Maddon said. For the first time in team history the Rays' seven, eight and nine hitters had three hits each. Also, the Rays scored 10 of their 12 runs with two outs. "That's nice," Maddon said. "That's a good thing to do." Roberts, who may or may not be with the team tonight depending on the who is moved to clear room on the roster for David Price, hit a two-run home run in the third inning and a long blast in the eighth that caromed off the wall in left-center field. "He tattooed it," Maddon said. It was the fourth career two-homer game for the Texas native and his second of the season. He also did it April 22 against the Yankees. "God's grace, man. That's only way that explains something like that," Roberts said. "Everything I've been dealing with, everything I've been praying about was answered tonight." Roberts called his demotion to Triple-A Durham last month to make way for Wil Myers "humbling," and said Monday's production made him even more humble. But he did like the offensive fireworks. "It's electric, man," Roberts said. "Guys up and down the lineup swung the bat well. I've seen that before. I think we've all seen that before. We know everybody can hit on this team and to see the guys come out and do it tonight it was awesome to be a part of." Roberts certainly made the decision on who to send down today a little bit harder. Going 0-for-5 would be one thing. But 3-for-5 with two home runs and three RBI tends to buy a fellow more time in the big leagues. "He was ready to play," Maddon said. "He was ready to play. That was fun to watch." As for possibly heading back to Durham, Roberts said, "That's the way to play every single game. In this game you never know when this can be your last game. That's the only way I know how to do it." The Rays' offense left five runners on base in the first two innings but began rolling in the third when Myers drew a leadoff walk. After a double by Ben Zobrist, James Loney drove in the first run of the night with a sacrifice fly for the 500th RBI of his career. Roberts hit a two-run homer to make it a 3-0 game. The Rays added two more in the fifth inning on RBI singles by Lobaton and Fuld. The then batted around in the seventh inning, scoring four times to make it a 9-0 game. Loney singled with one out to become the last player in the starting lineup to reach base and also, to extend his hitting streak to 12 games. Lobaton had a two-out single to start a run of five straight two-out hits. The Rays added three more in the eighth inning on Roberts' second homer, his fifth of the season, and a two-out, two-run double by Rodriguez that landed at the base of the left field wall and scored Lobaton (single) and Desmond Jennings (walk). It was the second straight three-hit game for Lobaton, who entered the game having hit .298 since April, the third-highest batting average among AL catchers during that span. Monday's game began a stretch of 14 against losing clubs for the Rays - Astros, White Sox and Twins. For a team looking to move up in the AL East, this stretch leading into the All-Star Break would be a good time. "Theory needs to meet reality and all of a sudden it's a good thing," Maddon said before the game. "We're trying to make theory and reality come together." On Monday, it was a very good thing.