BALTIMORE — Before Sunday’s game, Evan Longoria spoke about how the Rays are starting to play like the Rays, how the confidence has returned to the clubhouse and how a winning road trip could start the team on a climb up the standings.
Then the Rays went out and scored six runs on six hits against the Orioles, and those came after there were two outs in the sixth inning.
There was more offense, too. Lots more, as the Rays pounded the Orioles 12-7 at Camden Yards to win three of the four games during the series that kicked off an 11-game, 10-day, three-city road trip.
“We haven’t had anything like that all year, so it was nice to come out here in a big series and swing the bats like we did,” Matt Joyce said. “Those are the games we really enjoy playing.”
Joyce would know. The left fielder set career highs and tied a pair of franchise records for a game with five hits and 12 total bases. Two of those hits were home runs, his first since May 11.
“I’ll take it,” Joyce said. “I’ll take that day any day of the week.”
But it was more than just The Matt Joyce Show.
Ben Zobrist had two doubles and a home run. Kevin Kiermaier and Logan Forsythe homered for consecutive days as the Rays set season highs for extra-base hits in a game (11), extra-base hits in an inning (six in the sixth), doubles (six), home runs (five) and total bases (38). Their seven-run sixth inning set season highs for runs and hits (seven) in an inning.
“We’re doing pretty well right now,” Forsythe said. “Don’t need to get too high on it. Just keep doing what we’re doing.”
Throw in a loss by the first-place Blue Jays on Sunday and the Rays moved to within 10 games of the Jays, the closest they’ve been to first place since June 1.
“The effort is outstanding, and all of a sudden the production is starting to show up,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said.
Maddon has been predicting all year that his offense will come to life. Playing in hitter-friendly Camden Yards helped. Now the Rays head to hitter-friendly Yankee Stadium, where the Rays begin a three-game series tonight.
“Balls are falling in, we’re missing defenders, hitting balls over the wall, good at-bats, and that’s when you get that little swagger working among the group,” Maddon said. “And that’s nice to get back.”
The offense picked up Alex Cobb, who said he made strides toward returning to his top form despite allowing eight hits and four earned runs in five innings.
The Rays trailed 4-3 after a passed ball that went through Jose Molina’s legs scored Nick Markakis with the go-ahead run in the fifth.
Kiermaier tied the score in the sixth with a one-out home run off Evan Meek, who relieved Orioles starter Miguel Gonzalez in the fifth.
Desmond Jennings grounded out for the second out, then BOOM.
Zobrist doubled and scored on a single by Joyce that ended an 0-for-17 team-wide drought with runners in scoring position. Joyce went to second on the throw home, so Longoria was walked intentionally. James Loney greeted new Orioles pitcher Brian Matusz with a two-run double. Brandon Guyer followed with a two-run double. Forsythe’s second homer in two games gave the Rays a 10-4 lead. Molina followed with a single for the last hit of the most productive inning of the season.
“Everything they did was awesome,” Cobb said of the offense.
Joyce hit a two-run homer in the seventh off Matusz for the third two-run game of his career.
Now, on to New York.
“It’s a good time to go in,” Longoria said. “The team is playing better. We’re playing more of our style and caliber of baseball that we kind of expected to play, so (having won three out of four in Baltimore) and go in one somewhat of a hot streak, we’ve got a chance to make up some ground if we continue to play well.”