OAKLAND, Calif. —
For weeks, months actually, the Rays talked about this run of good baseball that would eventually show up if they continued to work hard and continued to believe in themselves.
The question asked after Wednesday’s 4-1 against the A’s sent them flying home with a 6-3 road trip was: Has it arrived?
"This is good, this is really good," first baseman Carlos Peña said. "Winning on the road is always a challenge for every single team, I think people will say, historically. So to come out of this road trip playing good ball clubs and winning each series is a great sign."
The Rays took two of three games at each stop through the top of the American League wild-card standings — Baltimore, Anaheim and Oakland. It was the fourth time in franchise history that the Rays went 2-1 in all three cities during a nine-game road trip, but it was the first time each team they played had a winning record.
"The confidence is always there, but I think it’s definitely going to go up after this road trip," center fielder B.J. Upton said.
The starting pitching was outstanding in all but one game, throwing three shutouts and allowing a run each in the other three victories. The bullpen allowed only two runs.
Jeremy Hellickson and Wednesday’s winner Alex Cobb each turned in a pair of solid outings. Matt Moore had another good start. James Shields bounced back from his loss in Baltimore to throw his first complete-game shutout of the year Tuesday night. David Price was David Price.
The offense is still lagging, but it reached double digits in hits in the last two games in Oakland.
Peña drove in two runs Wednesday with a double and his 15th home run of the season, a long blast into the seats above the right-field wall. He had at least one RBI in all three games in Oakland — five all together — and leads the team with 46 RBIs.
Desmond Jennings reached base in seven of his last 10 plate appearances. Ryan Roberts had two hits and an RBI on Wednesday. Upton put down his first two sacrifice bunts of the season Wednesday.
"I want to believe (this is the run)," manager Joe Maddon said. "This is the time of the year we normally do these things. When you go on a road trip like this, which has never been friendly to us, and win three series against three really good ball clubs that are ahead of you (in the wild-card standings) and then switch time zones and have to battle all that, day games after night games … that’s pretty good."
A telling sign, perhaps, is the Rays managed to cool off the red-hot A’s after losing in 15 innings Monday. The bullpen was taxed, yet Shields gave them the night off Tuesday with his gem and Cobb went seven innings Wednesday.
"That’s the type of club we are," Upton said. "We got guys in here that have been in those types of situations and know how to handle them. It shows a lot about this group. We don’t dwell on things long. Once it happens we kind of let it go and look forward to the next day."
Of course, the Rays rotation — when it pitches like this — makes it easy to look forward to the next day.
"Pitching is going to carry us," Maddon said. "We’ve always believed it’s going to be about pitching and defense first, but there’s offense here. There is offense here. There’s much more offense than shown to this point."
The Rays have shown flashes since their June swoon, though none were sustained this long.
"We haven’t played our best baseball," Maddon said. "We did a little bit in the beginning of the year. We’ve been a vacillating team. We just have to get better on a consistent basis. We’re able to do this. We just haven’t done it yet, and it’s going to happen."
So, again, the question is: Has The Run arrived?
"We’ll see," Upton said. "We just have to keep doing the little things, and we’ll see what happens."