ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rays flew home early this morning from the heart of Texas still hopeful of chasing someone down for a postseason spot, thanks to a winning road trip that took them cross country and through three time zones.
Thursday’s 6-3 win against the Rangers at Globe Life Park was the Rays’ sixth of the 10-game, three-city trip against the Athletics, Cubs and Rangers. Three of the four losses came in extra-innings.
“We’re really good with the bounce after the fall,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “We’ve lost some tough games on this trip, and that’s part of the game of baseball but we came back.”
Thursday’s victory gave the Rays three wins in the four-game series against the Rangers and improved their record to 10-2 in their last 12 series with four of those victories coming in four-game series.
More importantly, Thursday’s win moved the Rays to within one game of .500 for the second time since they bottomed out at 18 games under .500 on June 10. Since then the Rays are 36-19, which is the second-best record in the majors behind the Orioles during that run.
Now the Rays begin a nine-game stretch where they play teams that they are chasing in the Wild Card standings -- Yankees, Tigers and Blue Jays.
Rolling past the Rangers during the past two games behind dominant performances by Chris Archer on Wednesday and Jake Odorizzi on Thursday gives the Rays some momentum heading into the homestand.
“I think it’s a big thing, honestly,” Odorizzi said. “It feels like we haven’t played anybody in the East for a long time. We’ve been playing really well outside the division and now’s the real test and now we start our division so we can make up a lot of ground if we continue to play this way.”
Rays pitchers have allowed three or fewer runs in 18 straight road games, the longest run of its kind in the major leagues since the 1908 Cubs did it in 21 games. Their current run of three or fewer runs allowed in 10 straight games – all on this road trip – is a team record for games played home or away.
Odorizzi kept the streak alive with seven innings of four-hit ball. He allowed two runs on a two-run homer by Geovany Soto and struck out seven.
The Rays offense backed Odorizzi with another night of long ball.
Logan Forsythe got things started with a two-run homer in the second inning with Yunel Escobar on base. Evan Longoria and James Loney singled in runs in the third inning to give Odorizzi a 4-0 lead.
Longoria pushed the lead back to four in the fifth inning when he followed a one-out walk by Ben Zobrist with his team-leading 15th home run of the season.
Jeff Beliveau allowed a home run to Rougned Odor in the eighth inning but Brad Boxberger and Jake McGee finished off the Rays by getting the final five outs. McGee earned his team-leading 13th save along the way.
Odorizzi evened his record at 9-9 with this seventh win in his last 10 starts.
Maddon said he can see Odorizzi’s confidence grow with each outing.
“He’s swaggering out, he’s swaggering back in. He’s got a little bit of John Wayne working now,” Maddon said. “It’s good. It’s a good thing.”
Odorizzi said he’s a different pitcher than he was at the beginning of the season. Back then he was afraid to pitch to contact. Now he knows contact won’t necessarily ruin his night. Having figured that out, Odorizzi had turned into a strikeout pitcher. His 146 strikeouts lead all major league rookies.
“He’s absolutely this good,” Maddon said. “From ground level you can see it. I think he can even be better once he begins to understand himself. He’s at least this good, and he’s young. He’s still learning the ropes in the American League and he’s learning himself better.”
Now the Rays head toward the home stretch with the confidence and momentum that comes with a hot second half.
“It was tough early, but tough times don’t last, but tough teams do,” Odorizzi said. “That’s what we’re trying to do right now, defy the odds and make a comeback.”