ST. PETERSBURG -- The long, nearly lost week ended with a late-report-to-work Saturday for the Tampa Bay Rays, who looked sluggish as the week wore on and the losing streak grew to four games.
The annual team photo shoot, scheduled for the afternoon, was postponed. Batting practice was canceled. Just show up and play.
The result was a 7-1 victory against the Cleveland Indians in front of 29,212 D.J. Kitty plush hat-loving fans at Tropicana Field that snapped a season-long four-game losing streak and a six-game home losing streak, the longest during one season since 2005.
The Rays offense came to life with not only 10 hits but hits with runners in scoring position, and matched the amount of runs they scored in the previous three games combined.
“We kind of played well,” Rays manager Joe Maddon said. “It all starts with Bedard. He pitched really, really well. One hit in six innings, not bad.”
That would be Erik Bedard, who walked four batters in the first inning the last time he pitched under the catwalks but has since morphed into one of the Rays most dependable starters.
In three subsequent outings, including Saturday, Bedard has allowed two runs and turned in two quality starts, which is half the amount of quality starts recorded by the Rays rotation since April 20. David Price owns the other two.
Bedard tossed six scoreless innings against the Indians. The lone hit was a double by Ryan Raburn with one out in the second inning. Bedard also walked three -- two to started the fourth inning after the Rays handed him a 1-0 lead and one to open the fifth after the Rays extended the lead to 3-0.
Didn’t matter. Bedard pitched out of both jams
“He was phenomenal,” left fielder Matt Joyce said. “When he attacked the zone, the way he goes after hitters, it puts them on their heels a little bit and he did a great job of it.”
Said Bedard, “It always comes to throwing strikes.”
It certainly helped the Rays offense sprung to life after scoring 10 runs during the first four games of the homestand. The Rays were 6-for-35 with runners in scoring position during those four games. They were 4-for-6 on Saturday.
David DeJesus drove home Desmond Jennings from second base in the third inning with the game’s first run. Yunel Escobar singled Wil Myers home from second in the fourth inning. James Loney had an RBI single with Evan Longoria on second base in the fifth. Longoria had doubled home Ben Zobrist from first base for the first run of the inning.
Joyce had a pair of sacrifice flies to extend his major league-lead to seven.
“I think the last couple of games we looked a little tired,” Joyce said. “Personally I felt it a little bit. Coming back home, playing on the turf, playing some long games, obviously it tends to be a little bit harder to focus and grind it out when you play such long games. (Saturday) we looked good. We came out ready to swing, and it led to good things.”
And Bedard made sure those good things stood up. Juan Carlos Oviedo pitched two perfect innings, meaning Maddon didn’t have to warm up anyone during the seventh or eighth innings. Grant Balfour, pitching for the first time since last Sunday just to get some work, allowed two hits and a walk in the ninth as the Indians ruined the shutout.
The entire night, though, began with Bedard, who improves with each start.
“I can’t say I expected a one-hitter, but I did expect deeper into the game,” Maddon said. “Really competitive games. He has the weapons to do that, and he has the know how. He’s got as good a feel for pitching besides having some good stuff. He’s 35. He’s been around. He knows what he’s doing out there.”