Joyce's career day paces sizzling offense
Rays go yard five times; outfielder 5-for-6 with two home runs
BALTIMORE -- Matt Joyce's final plate appearance in Sunday's series finale against the Orioles carried a bit more weight than a typical ninth-inning at-bat would in a 12-7 blowout victory.
At the time, the Rays led by eight and the outfielder had already matched franchise marks with five hits and 12 total bases in one game. A triple would not only put him alone in the franchise record book, but given him the second cycle in Rays history, so he wanted to make sure he had a good at-bat.
Instead, he swung at the first pitch Tommy Hunter threw and grounded out to short.
"I knew he was going to throw a fastball right down the middle, and I just couldn't help swinging, I guess," Joyce said. "I'll take it. I'll take that day any day of the week."
That was the only at-bat that went wrong for Joyce -- who went 5-for-6 with four RBIs -- on Sunday, as the Rays took three of four games in front of 32,665 at Camden Yards.
Joyce delivered his first home run of the game in the third inning, and that triggered the seesaw affair that was eventually erased by a seven-run sixth inning by Tampa Bay.
With one out and the bases empty, Joyce belted a home run to right field to give the Rays a 2-0 lead and end a 124 at-bat home run drought.
"It comes and goes," Joyce said. "Home runs are funny. When you try to hit them, it never seems to happen, and you finally get it out of your head and you're just trying to square the ball up and you run in to some. And they come in bunches, so hopefully they come in a little bit more bunches."
By the time the sixth inning rolled around, though, Tampa Bay was playing from behind. Joyce didn't homer in that inning, but he did deliver a hit in the middle of the monster frame.
Outfielder Kevin Kiermaier opened the inning with a game-tying solo home run, and a Ben Zobrist double and a Joyce RBI single later, reliever Evan Meek (0-3) was finished and in line for the loss. Zobrist finished the day with two doubles and a home run.
"Our ballpark is really not a home run ballpark," Rays manager Joe Maddon said, "so I think when our guys get on the road, we have a chance to do things like that."
After Meek left, Tampa Bay kept building its lead. First baseman James Loney ripped a two-run single off Brian Matusz just moments after he entered the game. Outfielder Brandon Guyer followed that up with an RBI double a batter later, and then utility man Logan Forsythe capped the seven-run sixth with a two-run home run -- his second in two games.
"That's an aberration for our bullpen," Orioles catcher Nick Hundley said. "They've been so solid."
An inning later, Joyce added a two-run blast that nearly landed on Eutaw Street beyond the concourse in right field.
"He's been working really hard to power the ball again and he showed it today," Maddon said. "When he gets hot, he gets really hot, so that's hopefully a nice harbinger."
Thanks to Joyce's monster day and the collective offensive effort that yielded 18 hits, Alex Cobb picked up the win despite not having his best stuff.
Cobb (3-6) allowed eight hits and four runs -- three earned -- in five innings before the Rays relieved their starting pitcher.
"Everything they did today was awesome -- the defense they played, putting up all those runs," Cobb said. "I felt like I gave back a couple runs here and there and then they'd come back in the dugout and put up even more to get me comfortable again."
When Joyce came to the plate for the final time in that ninth inning, he had a chance to make an already historic day even more extraordinary.
He said the cycle was more enticing to him than the prospect of a six-hit day, and even after he missed out on it, he couldn't help but laugh at his day and joke that he felt "terrible."
"You really don't have very many days like that," Joyce said, "so it's nice to have one of those days and enjoy it."