NEW YORK — You can credit the Rays’ three wins in the wild 36 hours from Thursday afternoon to early Saturday morning to the never-say-die attitude manager Joe Maddon cultivates in the clubhouse and to the incredible belief the players have in each other.
Or, you can believe in the power of ice cream.
Chris Archer believes in the ice cream.
Video coordinator Chris “Chico” Fernandez somehow convinced David DeJesus to have a “cheat day” from his strict health-food diet and have a cup of ice cream before the Rays played the first game of Thursday’s doubleheader in Boston. DeJesus homered for only the second time this season and the Rays won both games. Then on Friday (actually, Saturday morning), with the Rays and Yankees tied at 5 in the top of the 14th inning, DeJesus had an ice cream bar while leaning against the dugout fence and ...
“Five runs,” Archer said.
The Rays walked out of the visiting clubhouse at Yankee Stadium in the wee hours of Saturday a bit tired — they spent 13 of those 36 hours on the field — yet energized. What had been a long, cold, wet road trip quickly became a series of events that might be looked upon as the galvanizing moment when the story of the 2014 Rays is eventually complete.
“I’m so impressed with our guys and their ability to stay motivated,” Maddon said before leaving the ballpark. “It’s pretty amazing. If you’re a Rays fan you got to be pretty proud of your players right now.”
The 14-inning win was filled with all sorts of oddities.
The Rays blew leads in the eighth and ninth innings and still won by five runs.
Wil Myers played first base in the 13th inning when the Rays employed a five-man infield and made the putout at first. He wore his outfield glove, too.
The Rays completed a rather involved double play in the 12th inning that was scored 4-3-3-6-3-4-3-4-5-2.
The Rays hit into five double plays.
They had 20 hits, their most since Sept. 5, 2007 against Baltimore.
It was only the fifth time in franchise history they won after blowing two saves in one game.
“That was the definition of a team win right there,” said David Price, who pitched seven strong innings.
“A crazy game,” Maddon said.
Actually, if you’ve been following this team for any length of time, it was Rays baseball. Crazy is the norm.
Forced to play a doubleheader they didn’t want to play, they naturally won both games.
Joel Peralta couldn’t hold a two-run lead in the eighth inning Friday, but Heath Bell threw 21⁄3 scoreless innings. They were rocky innings, but they were scoreless.
And the Rays won on the road after the Yankees blasted their way back into the game in the eighth inning.
It was the Yankees who had the runners on base in the extra innings. It was the Rays who won with a five-spot in the 14th.
“We kept pushing and pushing, and we never say die,” Bell said. “We believe in everybody, even putting Wil at first base. I think the guys believed in me even though we had some base hits early and I got in some jams. I kept bailing out of it. We stayed positive and kept going.”
Maddon said it takes a special group to win extra-inning games on the road.
“It speaks to the character of the team, because it’s so easy when you don’t score in the top of an extra inning, there’s almost like this impending doom kind of a feeling, because all they have to do is score one run,” Maddon said. “So you have to keep fighting for that next moment until finally you do break through.”
And while you’re fighting, it doesn’t hurt to have an ice cream.
“It’s worth the win,” DeJesus said. “I’ll take my diet, my abs, let those go if we can get 97 to 98 wins this year, that’s fine.”
Even if it means adding a few pounds?
“If it has to go that way,” DeJesus said, “I’ll be that guy.”