ST. PETERSBURG -- Rays manager Joe Maddon described Tampa Bay's 8-4 win over the Orioles on Sunday at Tropicana Field as the kind of "complete game" his club is used to playing.
For the Rays, of course, that means getting out-hit 12-6 by the competition, scoring three runs on errors, a strong starting pitching performance and a great deal of time afterward spent talking about how Elliot Johnson's hard, double-play-preventing slide in the fifth inning might have been the most important play in the game.
"If there's anything we want to be known for," Maddon said, "it's doing the little things well."
That includes Johnson's slide at second base during the fifth inning. The game was tied at that point, with runners on first and second, one out and Jose Molina sauntering toward the plate. Molina hit a grounder to Orioles third baseman Steve Tolleson that had double play written all over it. But Johnson slid into Robert Andino, giving Molina time to safely get to first and move Will Rhymes to third.
Carlos Pena drew a walk after that, before B.J. Upton delivered the big hit -- a ground ball that bounced off Tolleson and into shallow left field for a two-run double. The Rays ended up breaking out for four runs in the sixth, but Maddon pointed out that it all started with two walks and Johnson's slide that kept the inning alive.
"That's the way Joe wants us to play the game, and that's what we do," Upton said. "We knew that was important at that time, and Elliot did a great job of breaking that up."
"This is our style of game, and it suits us," Johnson said. "If we are going to make the most of our opportunities, we have to do things like that -- prolong the inning, save an out, whatever it is. ... The way that our team is built, I think that's the way we have to play every single day. It's not like we're in a home run competition. I don't think we're going to win that."
The Rays gave themselves more breathing room in the sixth, when Ben Zobrist hit a leadoff double -- his first extra-base hit in a career-high 59 at-bats dating back to May 15 -- and scored on a throwing error by catcher Matt Wieters, who was trying to pick him off at third.
Hideki Matsui followed that up with a single, and Sean Rodriguez recorded a pinch-hit single to keep the momentum going. Johnson followed with a single to score pinch-runner Rich Thompson, and Rodriguez came home on an error by Tolleson with Molina batting. The Rays finished their rally when Pena brought in Johnson on a sacrifice fly to center field.
"It's tough. There's no secret that [Tampa Bay's] very, very strong and seven deep in the rotation," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "You've really got to minimize the mistakes."
A day after the Rays' defensive miscues contributed to a 2-1 loss, they took full advantage of the Orioles' errors. They scored their first two runs in the fourth inning on Matt Joyce's sacrifice fly, which brought home Pena. Upton advanced to third and scored when center fielder Adam Jones sailed a throw over Tolleson at third.
"That's what good teams do," Upton said. "When teams make mistakes and errors, you've got to be able to capitalize on them. That's what we did today."
They also got a second consecutive solid outing from rookie lefty Matt Moore, who picked up his second win of the year and his first since May 1. Moore allowed two runs (one earned) on seven hits and three walks, while striking out four, over six innings. Over his last five starts, Moore has posted a 2.89 ERA.
"He's a little more under control in the present. He's not speeding up as much. I did speak to him about that specifically," Maddon said. "He knows he has a better feel of what's going on out there."
Everyone in the Rays' clubhouse knows they will need dominant pitching to stay atop the American League East and fight for a postseason spot. But they're convinced their 46 errors on the year aren't representative of the way they play defense, and they're hoping to see more offense when injured players Evan Longoria and Desmond Jennings return to the lineup this month.
Until then, they will need more "complete games" like the one they won on Sunday.
"We're going to pitch. We're going to play defense," Johnson said. "We're going to break up some double plays."