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Rays

Rays club Phillies, take series

The Tampa Tribune
Published:   |   Updated: March 23, 2013 at 12:14 AM

As recoveries from a terrible beginning go, you couldn't beat it.

Down four runs before they had a chance to swing the bats Thursday night, the Rays didn't sit back and accept the same fate they met when the Phillies scored six times in the first inning of the series opener.

The Rays' hitters took the first step, pounding out three runs of their own in the bottom half and three more in the second inning, and the man responsible for that early hole, Andy Sonnanstine, did his part as well with his rotation spot on the line.

After pulling away late for the second consecutive night, the Rays could take plenty of satisfaction in their 10-4 victory and the way they bounced back to take two of three in this World Series rematch.

Sonnanstine's plight was the unavoidable focus of the finale for the home team. Though the decision on who will vacate the Rays' rotation to make room for Scott Kazmir (an announcement is expected to be made today) is hardly black and white, Sonnanstine knew heading into the start he might be pitching to save his job.

When the Phillies pounded out five hits in the first, including a two-run double off the wall by Ryan Howard, and roared to that early lead, Sonnanstine looked to be in a state of shock - much like David Price had been two evenings earlier in a game that quickly became a Phillies blowout.

But once Sonnanstine had a chance to get into the dugout and collect himself, he was a different pitcher the rest of the way. Beginning with his strikeout of Eric Bruntlett to end the first, Sonnanstine retired 14 of the final 17 batters he faced, fanning seven of them to tie his season high.

Though he bounced back as well as he could have hoped, he didn't know if he had done enough to solidify his standing.

"That's a good question," he said when asked what he believed he had shown to those evaluating him Thursday night. "I felt like I rebounded well and battled. I'm going to go out there and do the best that I can every time. I was just ecstatic to see the defense and offense step up and help me out tonight."

Did he make their decision tougher?

"I'm not sure," he said. "That's probably a question for them."

Manager Joe Maddon said Sonnanstine did make a strong push with the way he finished his outing, adding that he would have preferred to get the right-hander through six full innings but felt he should take him out after he hit Matt Stairs with a pitch one out into the sixth.

"He's a professional, he settled himself down and he put those zeroes up and permitted us to come back," Maddon said. "We had a nice feeling about ourselves offensively tonight also. I thought we could get back in that game."

That's exactly what the Rays did, of course. The bulk of the Rays' bullpen chipped in to see the game to its conclusion, but by the time the relievers really got involved, Tampa Bay's hitters had given them ample room to work.

Homers by Ben Zobrist and Willy Aybar in the first two innings helped start something, and everyone in the starting lineup except B.J. Upton and Jason Bartlett had collected a hit by the end of the second.

Bartlett's drought didn't last long, as he singled to right in the fifth to extend his hitting streak to 19 games - breaking Quinton McCracken's club record of 18 that had stood since the inaugural 1998 season.

The following inning, Bartlett added an RBI single as the Rays put three more on the board to extend their advantage to 9-4.

The Rays also came up big in the field, particularly Upton throwing back to first base for a double play that ended the sixth after Pedro Feliz inexplicably went all the way to second base on a Bruntlett fly to relatively shallow right-center.

It took a while to get there and left some questions unanswered, but the Rays are carrying some positive momentum into their final interleague series against the Marlins this weekend.

"The last two nights have been more like us," said Maddon.

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