ST. PETERSBURG -- In Wednesday night's 10-4 win over the Blue Jays, the Rays built a big lead and managed to keep it, using only two relievers in the process.
The Rays have lost a Major League-high 13 games in which they surrendered a lead, which translates to them giving up the lead in 72 percent of their losses -- the highest percentage in the Major Leagues.
Thus the work of Jamey Wright, who took over for starter Matt Moore to begin the sixth inning on Wednesday, and that of Cesar Ramos, who pitched the final 2 1/3 innings, was something just short of heroic. Particularly given the fact the bullpen has been out of sorts in how it lines up for certain situations based on how different relievers have been used lately.
"We were chasing it," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "They gave some form back to the bullpen. ... Jamey was great, he's been really good. And Cesar's been throwing some strikes now -- and good strikes. Getting ground balls, and he's looking confident and it's kind of fun to watch.
"So, as these guys get better, the bullpen gets thicker. And then we'll be able to use different guys in more high-leveraged moments."
Ramos' scoreless outing Wednesday was only his fifth appearance in the Rays' past 20 games, but it represented the team's longest relief appearance of the season.
Relievers Gomes, Ramos excited to face Padres
ST. PETERSBURG -- This weekend will be only the Rays' fifth time facing the Padres, but a couple relievers have plenty of experience with San Diego.
Lefty Cesar Ramos and right-hander Brandon Gomes were both drafted by the Padres and came up through their Minor League system before being traded to Tampa Bay in December 2010 alongside Cole Figueroa and Adam Russell for former Rays shortstop Jason Bartlett and cash.
Gomes was in the Padres organization from 2007-10 after being drafted in the 17th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft, but never cracked San Diego's Major League roster. Ramos, picked 35th overall by the Padres in 2005, made his big league debut with the Padres in 2009 under manager Bud Black, and came up through the system with several players on the Padres roster, including star third baseman Chase Headley, catcher Nick Hundley and outfielder Will Venable.
"It'll be fun to throw against quite a few guys," Ramos said Thursday. "We all signed together. There's a bunch of guys from the 2005 Draft. We all came up together. They're still there, so it'll be fun to see them but also to compete against them.
"I played every year with Headley, Venable, Hundley. I threw to Hundley all the way up. It'll be fun, especially seeing Headley, like the player he's become now. Jeez. It's pretty cool to see him. I saw him struggle and do really well, then now, last year -- MVP-type year. It's pretty cool. Just good to see them again."
The trade that brought Ramos and Gomes to Tampa Bay has certainly worked out in the Rays' favor. The Padres released Bartlett last August after a mostly unproductive season and a half, Figueroa impressed the Rays this spring and Ramos and Gomes have turned into reliable Major League relievers. But Ramos didn't want to speculate whether his career has been better in Tampa Bay than it would have been in San Diego.
"Baseball's funny. You just never know. But I'm happy here," Ramos said. "I'm here and doing everything I can to help the team just like I was doing there."
Buddies Maddon, Black to connect this weekend
ST. PETERSBURG -- With the Padres coming to town Friday night, Rays manager Joe Maddon will be able to catch up with Padres manager and old friend Bud Black, a.k.a. "Pepe" to Maddon.
Maddon and Black were coaches on the Angels team that won the 2002 World Series.
"Pepe's great," Maddon said. "We had such a wonderful time in Anaheim, he's outstanding. He does a great job with the Padres. And he's a very good pitching coach."
Since both are now managers there is one dream scenario that floats around in each of their minds.
"The thing he and I talk about is that one moment when we have a Pad-Rays World Series," Maddon said. "That's P-A-D, hyphen R-A-Y-S. And that would be kind of fun. Wonderful guy and he's got a great sense of humor."
• On Thursday afternoon, Major League Baseball overturned a scoring decision from David Price's last start, Sunday in Colorado. That move took away five earned runs from Price's line, which cut his season ERA from 6.25 to 5.24. Colorado's Michael Cuddyer was previously credited with an infield single, but the play was changed to an error on shortstop Ben Zobrist. Price lowered his ERA to 4.78 in Thursday's 5-4 win over Toronto after allowing two earned runs in eight innings.
• James Loney took over the top spot as the American League's leading hitter after Wednesday night's action. He finally crossed the qualifying minimum of 3.1 plate appearances per game. Despite three walks in Thursday's win, Loney went 0-for-1 to drop to .381, one point behind Detroit's Miguel Cabrera. In 20 games before Thursday, Loney hit .485 with one home run and 13 RBIs.
• Matt Moore pitched five innings Wednesday night, extending the Rays' streak to 33 games in which their starter pitched at least five innings. In doing so, the Rays became one of just three teams since records are first available (1916) to have their starters go five-plus innings in each of their first 33 games.