4-11-07 - A rare road win was reason to celebrate for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.
Carlos Pena homered in a four-run third inning, and Tampa Bay hung on to beat the Texas Rangers 6-5 on Wednesday night to snap a four-game losing streak.
Ben Zobrist also homered for the Devil Rays, just 5-36 on the road since last June 30.
Tampa Bay had dropped the first two games of the series by a total score of 20-13, and the Devil Rays were eager to avoid the sweep.
"It was a big win in the sense that we've got to get better on the road," Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon said. "The first night we played a pretty good game, last night we got a lot of runs but didn't win. We have to get out of these road sweeps. We won one out of three. We need to get to where we win two out of three."
Michael Young homered twice for the Rangers, who had won four of their previous five and went 4-2 in Ron Washington's first homestand as Texas manager.
Tampa Bay starter James Shields (1-0) allowed one run and two hits over the first five innings before the Rangers rallied with a four-run sixth.
Shields gave up five runs on five hits over seven innings. He had a career-high eight strikeouts and walked one.
Sheilds recovered from the four-run sixth, allowing only a walk in the seventh.
"I had to make some pitches in the seventh inning and shut them out," Shields said. "That was huge."
Maddon praised Shields for limiting the damage and bouncing back from a tough inning.
"He and I have talked several times about the ability to maintain composure," Maddon said. "I really believe he's capable of winning a lot of games."
Al Reyes struck out two in a perfect ninth for his second save in as many chances. Brian Stokes retired the Rangers in order in the eighth to give the struggling Devil Rays bullpen a lift.
Texas' Ian Kinsler led off the sixth with his fourth homer, Kenny Lofton followed with a single, and Frank Catalanotto hit a grounder to Zobrist at shortstop for what appeared to be an easy double play.
But Zobrist threw wildly to second baseman B.J. Upton for an error and Young delivered his second homer of the game, a three-run shot that narrowed the deficit to 6-5.
Young's first homer of the season in the first inning gave Texas a 1-0 lead.
The Young started the night hitting .176, but he said it was far too soon to panic.
"It's nice to get some results but I try to be as consistent as I can," Young said. "If my approach is consistent, I'll find a way to hit."
Zobrist, the game's second batter, homered off Rangers starter Robinson Tejeda (1-1) to give the Devil Rays a 1-0 lead.
After Michael Young's first-inning solo shot tied the score, Tampa Bay took a 2-1 lead in the second on Dioner Navarro's RBI single.
In the third, Ty Wigginton smacked an RBI double to end a 12-pitch at-bat. Delmon Young's sacrifice fly and Pena's two-run homer extended the Devil Rays' advantage to 6-1.
Pena, who had gone hitless in his first eight at-bats, was the Rangers' first-round pick in 1998 and made his major league debut with Texas in 2001. He signed with the Devil Rays as a free agent in January and was one of Tampa Bay's final cuts in spring training as a non-roster invitee.
Pena was added to the roster when Greg Norton was placed on the disabled list with a torn knee ligament on March 31.
Pena had only one major league homer last season, giving the Boston Red Sox a 3-2 win over the Chicago White Sox with a walk-off shot in the 10th inning last September.
Starting the season slow did not faze Pena, however.
"It doesn't matter," Pena said. "You can't go out there with baggage. It's all about what I can do for my team today. What you want are good at bats, and if you do that, hopefully you'll get results."
Tejeda allowed six runs and 10 hits over five innings.
Tejeda was trying to get ahead in the count with fastballs, and the young Devil Rays were ready.
"They were aggressive," Washington said. "Their game plan was to swing at fastballs early in the count and make things happen. Give them credit. Those kids are good hitters."