ST. PETERSBURG - There was the leadoff single in the first inning by B.J. Upton followed by a loud two-run homer to right field by Carlos Peña that gave the Tampa Bay Rays a couple of things they could really use these days: some confidence and an early lead.
But it wasn't until the sixth inning of Tuesday's 4-2 victory against the Cleveland Indians at Tropicana Field that Rays manager Joe Maddon saw something that has eluded his team for much of the season: some flow.
Left fielder Desmond Jennings, on first base after hitting into a fielder's choice, stole second against Indians right-hander Josh Tomlin, who had not allowed a stolen base since Sept. 19, 2010. Jose Lobaton singled to right field on the next pitch to drive in Jennings with a much-needed insurance run.
"I do believe in the ebb and flow of the season, and flow needs to come," Maddon said. "I believe if we keep working at it like we are, all this extra (pregame) work we've been doing and we keep coming out with this kind of energy, we'll start finding those moments do come in our favor. The game runs in cycles. Statistically, it plays back and forth, so based on what has happened to this point I want to believe these next two-and-a-half months owe us as long as we play it hard. If we don't, it doesn't owe us anything."
The Rays won for the seventh time in their past 19 games and for only the second time since they returned from the All-Star break.
Rookie left-hander Matt Moore breezed through the first three innings then struggled to finish the next two, allowing single runs in each. He did even his record at 6-6 because the bullpen continued its second-half dominance with four more shutout innings.
"Lights out," right-hander Joel Peralta said after tossing 11/3 scoreless innings.
Fernando Rodney recorded the final out for his 27th save and fired another imaginary arrow toward the Trop's roof.
The Rays' bullpen has pitched 92/3 scoreless innings during the first two games of this four-game series. Since the All-Star break, the relievers have allowed one run in 181/3 innings.
"Everybody is doing their job, throwing strikes," Peralta said. "It's going pretty good for the bullpen."
Maddon said the return of right fielder Matt Joyce from the disabled list allowed him to move Upton to the top of the order, and Upton provided the needed spark when he singled to start the first.
Peña, who was pinch-hit for during the seventh inning of Monday's loss, slugged his 14th homer of the year and his first in the first inning since his grand slam on Opening Day.
"Guys aren't far off," Upton said. "We've been swinging the bats pretty well. That's big for him and his confidence, and big for us as a whole. We needed to get off to a good start and it happened."
Ben Zobrist drew a walk and then scored on a two-out triple by Scott to give Moore a 3-0 lead.
Moore, who needed nine pitches to get through the first inning and 10 to get through the second, looked like he was crafting what would be a magical night. But the Indians loaded the bases off him in the fourth and the fifth innings.
"He's 23," Maddon said. "You have to be patient with that."
Moore started the sixth but gave way to Wade Davis after walking the leadoff batter. Davis, Peralta, Burke Badenhop and Rodney took it from there.
And just so they had a little cushion to work with, Jennings used his legs to create an important tack-on run, making a season of ebbs turn to a positive flow of the Rays.
"Absolutely," Upton said. "We've kind of have done it, put it together here and there. Over the course of the year we just haven't had our big streak yet. It's going to happen if we keep doing what we have been doing lately."
Tampa Bay Rays