ANAHEIM - Planned long before the Tampa Bay Rays put their five-game losing streak on the line Tuesday night was the “Win or Weep Party,” arranged by manager Joe Maddon at a Long Beach sports bar.
You win and you're happy. You lose you weep. Either way, you party.
“Fortunately it's a win party,” Maddon said a half-hour before the charter bus left Angel Stadium for the event.
The reason was a strong return from the disabled list by Matt Moore, a big two-out, two-run double by Ben Zobrist and outstanding relief by Roberto Hernandez.
It all added up to a 7-1 victory against the Angels that snapped the Rays' losing streak and enabled them to gain some breathing room in the chase for a postseason spot.
The Rays now have a 2 1/2 game lead over the Yankees for the final spot in the wild card standings.
“It's really good, obviously, after the last six days,” Zobrist said of the victory. “But I think September wins ... in general, any time you get a win in September is really big.”
The seven runs matched the number of the runs the Rays scored during the five losses.
They scored at least one run in six consecutive innings, the first time they did that since April 22, 2009, at Seattle.
The Rays had 15 hits, including one from 10 different players.
“Up and down the lineup it was a lot better,” Maddon said.
The downside was the Rays continued to struggle with runners in scoring position - 3-for-20. They also hit into a pair of double plays with the bases loaded.
“We're really bad at the bases-loaded play,” Maddon said. “It's unbelievable, two double plays (Tuesday).”
Moore pitched into the sixth inning and did not allow an earned run. Pitching after missing five weeks with a sore elbow, he allowed just four hits and won his 15th game of the season.
“Obviously the win's good,” Kelly Johnson said. “Also what I think is nice is having Matty back throwing like that, kind of coming in and just dealing.”
Hernandez, who couldn't hold on to his job as a starter, entered the game with one out in the sixth inning and retired all 11 batters he faced for his first big league save.
“Zobrist's hit permitted all that to happen,” Maddon said.
The Rays led 2-1 in the fourth inning when Zobrist came to the plate with Yunel Escobar on first base and Johnson on second.
With the count full - and with the Rays already 1-for-6 on the night with runners in scoring position - Zobrist laced a double into left field against Angels starter Jason Vargas that scored both runners and gave Moore a 4-1 lead to work with.
“Huuuuuge,” Maddon said. “It really loosened everybody up.”
Zobrist said after Monday's loss that all it would take would be the right hit at the right time for the Rays to turn things around. Perhaps that double was the hit.
“I think it just gave us some breathing room,” he said. “We've been playing a lot of one-run games. To get a little bit of a lead, a little bit of a cushion helps the whole team relax.”
The Rays also received home runs by Desmond Jennings and Escobar and a two-out, RBI single from Jose Lobaton. Wil Myers, who was thrown out at third base to end the fifth inning, ran a single into a double to start the seventh and eventually came home on a wild pitch.
“It was a really good way to win,” Johnson said. “There wasn't any kind of drama. It was just well-pitched, well-played on defense and we finally got some hits.
“All the way around it was just a good way to get going.”