ARLINGTON -- Wade Davis earned his bones Friday night when the Rays' starter-turned-reliever thwarted an eighth-inning Rangers rally to preserve an 8-4 Rays win at Rangers Ballpark with 47,496 watching."That's the most intense 8-4 game you're going to find in April of any year," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. The Rays moved to 13-7 on the season while extending their winning streak to six. Four-run cushions in the eighth normally make any team feel secure. Only having the wind blowing out to right while facing the Rangers' lineup will make any lead feel precarious. J.P. Howell allowed singles to Nelson Cruz and Murphy to start the inning. Davis then took over. The right-hander became the odd man out in the spring while fighting to claim a spot in the Rays' rotation. Since being relegated to the bullpen, he has handled his new assignment with enthusiasm. Friday night became his biggest moment. First, he struck out Mike Napoli. Mitch Moreland then lobbed a pop into shallow left. Evan Longoria camped under the ball, bobbled it, then dropped it to load the bases and bring Ian Kinsler to the plate. Davis then uncorked a pitch that got past Chris Gimenez. But the Rays catcher hustled after the ball and made a perfect throw to Davis, who tagged out Cruz trying to score from third. Davis "kind of yanked the slider a little bit," Gimenez said. "I knew who was on third base and that we might possibly have a chance. I did kind of glove it a little bit and knew it probably wouldn't make it to the backstop. I just turned and ran as fast as I could and slid and tried to make a low throw to at least give him a chance. ... I kind of short-hopped him, but he made a nice pick for me. He picked me up on that one." Kinsler eventually walked to cap an eight-pitch at-bat to again load the bases and bring Elvis Andrus to the plate. Andrus got ahead 3-0 in the count, a situation that looked dire with Josh Hamilton standing in the on-deck circle. "I went out there once we got to 3-2, he came back with two heaters," Gimenez said. "And I told him, we have to make him beat us with your best pitch right now. We can't afford to flip something in there and maybe he takes it, because look whose sitting on-deck there." Andrus continued to battle Davis' fastball, eventually hitting a drive to right that finished in the right-field stands just foul. "Off the bat, I thought it was gone," Davis said. Added Gimenez: "It was really close. I was doing the Carlton Fisk on the other side doing this thing. The way the wind was blowing there, anything could have happened." Andrus lamented that he has not been on the receiving end of any extra luck as a hitter thus far in the season. "At the last minute, it went on the other side of the pole," Andrus said. "That's not what you want as a hitter. It's happened to me twice already." Davis maintained his composure and retired Andrus on the 11th pitch of the at-bat on a flyout to center field. "My goal was to go out there and keep the lead, and that's what I had on my mind," Davis said. Jake McGee pitched a scoreless ninth to finish off the win that looked like it might be a blowout at the beginning of a game that would see the Rays collect a season-high 16 hits. Longoria's three-run homer fueled a four-run first against Rangers starter Matt Harrison. The Rangers tried to answer in the bottom of the first when Kinsler and Andrus each singled against James Shields, putting runners at the corners with no outs. Shields then defused what might have turned into a big inning by picking off Andrus, giving the Rays right-hander his first pickoff of the season after leading the Major Leagues with 13 in 2011. "You have all this momentum possibly going and then it goes away because of a pickoff," Maddon said. "It can be deflating to the other side or your team. It's something Shieldsy works on a lot. It's not a fluke. It's not by surprise. He works very, very hard on his entire game." After the Rays' turn at bat in the fifth, they had accrued 14 hits against Harrison, which earned Harrison some form of notoriety as his effort tied Bobby Witt and Dennis "Oil Can" Boyd for the Rangers' record for most hits given up in a game. Hamilton hit a two-run homer off Shields in the fifth, giving him nine for the season while cutting the Rays' lead to 7-3. Luke Scott pinch-hit in the sixth against Mark Lowe and hit a solo home run to right field that pushed the Rays' lead to five runs. David Murphy then homered for the Rangers in the bottom half of the inning to make it 8-4. Shields allowed four runs on 11 hits while striking out eight in six innings to pick up his fourth win of the season.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.