SEATTLE — Bases loaded, nobody out in a one-run game, and Delmon Young hit into a double play, pitcher-to-catcher-to-first base. A pop up to right field and the inning was over without a runner crossing the plate.
How many times have the Tampa Bay Rays seen that on the road trip? Golden opportunity, opportunity gone.
Too many, would be the correct answer.
It was at the point during the seventh inning Sunday when Rays manager Joe Maddon said he figured he'd seen the end of his team's West Coast struggles.
“I honestly thought it's got to be about it. Uncle at that point,” Maddon said. “I really, in a perverse way, felt something good was going to happen after that. Has to, because you can't sink to any more lows after that.”
He was right. The Rays scored three times in the eighth inning on a James Loney double and a Sean Rodriguez single, added another run in the ninth and skipped out of Safeco Field with a 4-1 victory against the Seattle Mariners.
The incredibly underwhelming trip ended on a good note with the Rays' third win in 10 games. Throw in losses earlier in the day by the Baltimore Orioles and Cleveland Indians, and the Rays flew home with a two-game lead over both teams for the final wild-card spot in the American League.
“It was a good day for us,” said Matt Moore, who pitched into the seventh inning.
There was music in the clubhouse after the game as a number of the players slipped into NFL jerseys before heading to the team bus.
There was music in the clubhouse before the game, too, an indication the Rays weren't suffocating over their poor play on the trip. NFL games played on the clubhouse TVs as some of the Rays kept tabs on their fantasy football teams.
“I think even coming into (Sunday) we were excited watching football,” Moore said.
Then the baseball game began and the Rays looked like their recent listless selves. Moore allowed a second-inning home run to Kendrys Morales and the Rays couldn't do a thing against Mariners starter Erasmo Ramirez, getting three hits through six innings.
But the Rays loaded the bases in the seventh with a walk, a single and a walk. Mariners manager Eric Wedge went to his bullpen and Maddon began a parade of pinch-hitters.
First up was Young, who hit into a 1-2-3 double play. Ben Zobrist left the tying and go-ahead runs on base when he flied out to end the inning.
“We had a lot of opportunities that didn't want to go our way,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez, who ruined a Rays rally during Friday's loss when he was picked off second base with no outs in the eighth inning, got another chance Sunday when he hit for Matt Joyce.
Before that, Loney finally delivered a big hit, doubling to right field with runners on first and second to tie the score at 1.
Rodriguez then singled to center field to score Desmond Jennings and Loney and give the Rays a 3-1 lead.
“I'm grateful, considering it happened (Friday),” Rodriguez said. “You don't usually get an opportunity right away. That's instant gratification, instant redemption. I'm very fortunate and thank God for that one.”
It was the first pinch-hit, game-winning hit of Rodriguez's career.
“To get the breakthrough runs, it finally happened,” Maddon said. “Hopefully that's going to open up the floodgates with that.”
The Rays were 3-10 on the West Coast this season, including the 0-3 series at Dodger Stadium. Before the game, Maddon said he would have been pleased with a 5-5 trip.
“It's the best 3-7 trip in the history of our organization,” he said.
Maddon said he never looked more forward to flying east than he did after Sunday's win.
“There's a chance we may be coming back (to California),” he said. “I'm looking forward to the next trip out here and hopefully it will be in late October.”