Rays persevere, pull away from Phillies

Rays persevere, pull away from Phils

ST. PETERSBURG -- Fair or not, a lot has been written and said about the 2009 Rays not measuring up to the '08 version. But make no mistake about it, this year's team shares a quality familiar to last year's American League championship squad: It doesn't quit.

On Thursday night, that perseverance led the way to a come-from-behind 10-4 win over the Phillies with 20,141 watching at Tropicana Field. The Rays took their second consecutive series while moving to 10-5 in Interleague Play this season. And, on a miniscule scale, Tampa Bay managed to gain a little payback for its World Series loss to Philadelphia in October.

Andy Sonnanstine and the Rays took a barrage of heavy punches by the Phillies in the first inning, bringing to mind Tuesday night's 10-1 loss, when the Phils scored six in the first and left-hander Jamie Moyer kept the Rays from mounting anything resembling a comeback. This time, Philadelphia scored four in the first. And despite the early deficit, Tampa Bay answered immediately.

Carlos Pena's RBI double started the Rays' scoring in the first before Ben Zobrist finished it with a two-run homer that was almost as big of a hit as his wife, Julianna's, rendition of the national anthem before the game.

"I think our offense, we had a hard time getting it going that first night, but after [Wednesday], we kind of erupted late in the game," Zobrist said. "[It] just felt good about getting things going. ... [It's] just nice to know that you come back right after that and score at least one and you're starting to chip away already."

As for Julianna's work?

"It was a good little combo right there," Zobrist said. "It was fun watching her perform. She's so good, just so much talent that I don't mind being upstaged."

Still trailing, 4-3, when they came to bat in the second, the Rays picked up where they left off in the first. Willy Aybar, who started at third while Evan Longoria nursed a sore left hamstring, took advantage of the opportunity by lining a leadoff homer off the left-field foul pole against Phillies starter Antonio Bastardo. Carl Crawford's one-out RBI single then pushed across the go-ahead run before Pat Burrell grounded out to second to drive in another and put Tampa Bay up, 6-4.

"We got four runs tonight, then the whole momentum of the game shifted," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "When they put three in and three back on the board, the whole game shifted."

Sonnanstine settled down once the second frame began. The Rays' right-hander retired 14 of the final 17 hitters he faced before leaving the game after hitting Matt Stairs with one out in the sixth.

"It took me a little bit to find my control, but once I got it, I felt good and confident and effective," Sonnanstine said.

Maddon complimented Sonnanstine for finding his way.

"That was a tough first inning, they came at us pretty strong and he righted himself and came back out with a bunch of zeroes out there," Maddon said.

Sonnanstine's outing could not have come at a more crucial time with the Rays are mulling over which pitcher will be the odd man out of the rotation once Scott Kazmir returns from the disabled list in the coming days.

"[I] felt like I rebounded well, battled," said Sonnanstine when asked if he stated his case to remain in the rotation. "I'm going to go out there and do the best I can every time. I'm just ecstatic to see the defense and offense step up to help me out tonight."

When asked if his performance Thursday night made the Rays' decision tougher, Sonnanstine said he wasn't sure.

"That's a question for them," Sonnanstine said.

Tampa Bay put the game away in the sixth with three additional runs on an RBI single by Bartlett and a two-run single by Aybar. Crawford drove in the Rays' final run with a fielder's choice in the seventh and the bullpen posted 3 2/3 innings of scoreless relief to preserve the win.

"We weren't facing a guy that had been around 100 years, either," said Maddon when discussing the difference between Thursday night's first-inning punch and Tuesday night's. "When you get a young pitcher under those circumstances, it's a little bit different than getting a guy like Jamie Moyer. And their starter had good stuff. ... But I think his youth permitted us to get back in that game."

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