ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Rays said their 2-1 win on Friday was the kind of game they're supposed to play -- a close, competitive contest decided by pitching and timely hitting. But the Rays' 8-0 victory over the Orioles on Saturday at Tropicana Field couldn't have been much more different.
Not that they're complaining, of course. When their hot hitting and traditionally reliable pitching get going at the same time, they're convinced they can put together games like Saturday's on a regular basis.
"A day like today is something that we hope we can continue to do the rest of the season," said Rays second baseman Ben Zobrist, who led the way with two doubles amid a 3-for-5 day at the plate. "Of course we don't expect it to happen like that all the time, but certainly we're going to take advantage of those times where we're feeling good offensively. Maybe they haven't pitched as well as they can yet, and today showed what our pitching's capable of. If those things come together, the sky's the limit for this team."
With Saturday's convincing win, their 10th in their last 13 games, the Rays (34-27) moved out of fourth place in the American League East and ahead of the Orioles (34-28). Tampa Bay also pushed its record to a season-high seven games over .500 as it climbed into third place behind the Red Sox and Yankees in the AL East.
The only real similarity between the Rays' two wins in this weekend series was the strong starting pitching performances by Chris Archer on Friday and Jeremy Hellickson on Saturday.
Hellickson, who entered Saturday with a 5.59 ERA and plenty of blown leads to his name this season, scattered four hits and struck out five on 96 pitches over six shutout innings, his second scoreless outing of the season. He was backed by plenty of early run support and equally dominant relief pitching, as Alex Torres, Jamey Wright and Kyle Farnsworth each tossed a perfect inning to shut out the Orioles.
But for Hellickson, the Rays' No. 2 starter and former AL Rookie of the Year, Saturday could prove to be a momentum-building outing. He hasn't walked a batter in each of his last two starts, and he stranded all five of his runners. But the "huge" thing for him, he said, was simply avoiding the big innings that have given him so much trouble this year.
After giving up two singles in the first inning then escaping unscathed, Hellickson worked three perfect innings then once again ran into trouble in the fifth.
He gave up two singles to lead off the inning, but with runners on the corners and two outs, he got Nate McLouth to fly out to end the inning. That set up the home half of the inning, when the Rays broke the game open with five runs.
"We'd like to have pushed something across there. That was an opportunity," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "He's a good pitcher. He's one of those guys that you know what he's going to do. We see him enough and they see us enough that there's not many secrets. And they continue to do it."
Orioles prospect Kevin Gausman, meanwhile, could not continue what he started Sunday against the Tigers, his first major-league quality start. Instead, the top prospect's struggles resumed, and he looked much more like the pitcher who surrendered 11 runs over his first two career outings.
"Obviously this hasn't gone the way I would've hoped," Gausman said. "I wanted to come up here and hit that ground running, win my first four starts. But it hasn't been like that, so I just try to battle every day and get back to what I've been doing. ... These guys are pretty good. There's definitely a learning curve there, and I'm just trying to learn every time."
Tampa Bay got to Gausman almost immediately, as Zobrist doubled with one out in the first inning and scored on Evan Longoria's RBI single to left field, part of a 25-pitch first inning for Gausman. The Rays tacked on two more runs in the second inning, when Yunel Escobar and Zobrist each hit run-scoring singles.
Then came the fifth inning, when the offense Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon describes as "swarming" took effect.
Zobrist got to Gausman once again by leading off with a double, taking third on Kelly Johnson's flyout and scoring on James Loney's soft single to center field. Gausman exited with one out in the fifth after loading the bases, but lefty reliever T.J. McFarland immediately served up a bases-clearing triple to Luke Scott and an RBI double to Jose Lobaton to put the game out of reach.
It might not have been how they would draw up a prototypical Rays win. But they'll take it.
"Today was an example of what we're capable of," Scott said. "Great pitching and a good, balanced-attack offense. If we do that, we'll be very, very difficult to beat."
NOTES: The Orioles reinstated right-handed reliever Pedro Strop from the 15-day disabled list before Saturday's game. Strop (0-2, 6.11 ERA) was placed on the DL on May 25, retroactive to May 24, with a lower back strain. He gave up one hit and struck out two in the eighth inning Saturday. ... Maddon said LHP David Price (strained left triceps) will need to make three minor-league rehab starts before returning to the big-league team, putting the reigning American League Cy Young winner in line to return in late June or early July. Price suffered the injury in his May 15 start and threw off a mound Friday for the first time since that game. ... Tampa Bay reliever Brandon Gomes (right lat strain) should throw in the bullpen at some point during this homestand, Maddon said, but he is still a few weeks away from coming off the 15-day disabled list. ... Baltimore drafted Vanderbilt University outfielder Mike Yastrzemski, grandson of Red Sox Hall of Famer Carl Yastrzemski, on Saturday in the 14th round of the MLB draft. ... The Rays, meanwhile, drafted Dalton Martinez, the son of bench coach Dave Martinez, with their 31st-round pick. The elder Martinez said he was excited but didn't expect his son to sign out of high school.