Rays bats come alive in series finale

Rays bats come alive in series finale

DENVER -- You won't find a happier Devil Rays clubhouse than what could be seen after Sunday's 7-4 win over the Rockies in front of a crowd of 31,190 at Coors Field.

For starters, the win snapped the Rays' four-game losing streak, while ending the Rockies' four-game winning streak. Aside from the win, there was the way the Rays got from point A to point B. Take Jonny Gomes' contribution.

The Rays blue-collar slugger came through with two home runs, one of 442 feet and another that traveled 415 feet to drive in four runs.

Gomes is in his second tour with the Rays this season after getting recalled this week from Triple-A Durham. Now, he is trying to make the most out of his opportunity.

"This is like what, tryout what this year?" Gomes said. "I just have to keep it going through September, and we'll see where we go from there. A guy on a mission, I guess, is what you've got to be to stay up here. I'm playing hard. I want to be an everyday player. And if they need me to prove it and if they need me to show them, then that's what I need to do."

While Gomes hit two bombs, teammate Carlos Pena's blast in the sixth inning landed 452 feet from home plate in the third deck in right field.

Rays manager Joe Maddon called Pena's blast "prodigious" and claimed he called the shot while talking to Gomes. Gomes qualified Maddon's contention by noting: "He said it at the beginning of the game. He wasn't like calling his shot."

Pena simply smiled and said his blast "felt pretty good" while complimenting the team's overall offense that accounted for 15 hits on the afternoon.

Further smiles were provided by one of those hits. Rays starter Scott Kazmir slapped a single between third and shortstop in the fifth to tie the score at 3. For over a month, the Rays left-hander could be seen bouncing around the clubhouse carrying a bat in anticipation of hitting during Interleague Play. And yes, the good-natured Kazmir received more than his share of comments when he returned to the bench.

"Yeah, I was making fun of [Kazmir]," Gomes said. "He had a bloody knee, grass stains, broken bat, you know, all over the place. He was a baseball player today."

When told of Gomes' comments, Kazmir smiled: "I wanted to get dirty a little bit today. Look like the guys."

While Kazmir would have preferred to talk hitting until the wee hours of the night, his most important contribution Sunday came on the mound. He surrendered two home runs, but gave the Rays a quality start by allowing three runs on six hits while walking four and striking out five in six innings to pick up his fifth win of the season. Making his contribution even bigger was the fact the Rockies had scored 21 runs in the previous two games.

"It's tough pitching here, it really is," Kazmir said. "There's not too many routine fly balls around here. Everything's a challenge. I just wanted to keep pounding the strike zone and get ahead of the hitters.

"But early on the ball was kind of running every which way, and it made it kind of tough to get my accuracy down. I kind of picked up the pace a little bit, and it helped tremendously. I felt like I had better command and authority with the pitch."

Maddon got ejected in the seventh inning when he argued that Todd Helton had made a swing for strike three against Rays reliever Jay Witasick that would have ended the inning. Instead, Helton walked to load the bases. Garrett Atkins then grounded into a fielder's choice for the third out.

Maddon would like to see his bullpen situation turn into a "formulaic" situation in which Witasick pitches the seventh, Gary Glover the eighth, and Al Reyes the ninth, and that's exactly the way it went down Sunday afternoon -- with little drama. Reyes retired the Rockies in order in the ninth to earn his 16th save in 16 opportunities this season.

Yes, the Rays had plenty to smile about Sunday.

Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.