ANAHEIM -- The Rays' six-game win streak was snapped Sunday in a 5-2 defeat to the Angels at Angel Stadium, yet nothing could take away a successful road trip that has Tampa Bay feeling better about its prospects again.
Sunday's loss materialized when the Angels scored on three sacrifice flies and added another tally on a ground out. The offense managed just two runs against Angels rookie sensation Shohei Ohtani.
And while the setback came while using reliever Sergio Romo again to absorb a few outs to start the game, the Rays continue to like what they see in their daring experiment that has the equivalent of a long man sandwiched by a reliever at the outset and more bullpen arms at the tail end of the game.
Romo once again opened the game with three strikeouts, but went 1 1/3 innings Sunday after opening with just one inning Saturday. Matt Andriese followed by giving up two runs over two innings, but neither were earned in a game that more accurately resembled a bullpen day for the Rays.
"It's definitely outside of the box and is one of those things that came out of left field," Romo said. "But I think it was really cool. It's cool for the game of baseball from the strategic side. It's unheard of, and it's a lot of fun to be part of the unheard of … the abnormal."
Romo said he tried to treat the last two days like any other relief appearance, outside of the fact that he had hours upon hours to chew on the exact moment he would pitch, as opposed to jumping off a bullpen chair and warming up as fast as possible. But, there was one unexpected aspect to pitching in the first inning.
"The one thing that was odd for sure, 100 percent, was going on to an unscathed mound," said Romo, who was actually stepping onto a mound that had been used for a half inning by the Angels' starter each of the last two days. "It was clean, it was pristine. It was like, 'Woah, what is this?' I kind of had to kick out [the dirt] to get the normal bump under my foot."
And that seemed to be as odd as it got for the pitchers who actually had to execute baseball's newest strategy. Andriese has made 46 career starts, but 12 of his 14 outings this year have come in relief, so when he spelled Romo in the second inning, he wasn't making much of the experience.
"If Sergio Romo is starting the game, you know it's going to be a bullpen day," Andriese said. "You know he won't go more than two innings, so the bullpen is on full tilt, ready to go."
The Rays went 7-4 on their road trip to Baltimore, Kansas City and Anaheim, with the success all the more impressive after it started by going 1-3 at Camden Yards. A three-game sweep over the Royals, and three consecutive victories over the Angels, moved the Rays to 22-22, the first time they reached .500 since they were 1-1 way back in March.
For leadoff hitter Denard Span, who went 0-for-4 but had an RBI groundout, the road trip's success had him thinking of the Rays' eight-game win streak toward the end of April. This run of success seemed to validate that one.
"I think that we're starting to get the rest of the league's attention … a little bit," Span said. "But, we still have a long way to go, obviously. It's only a quarter of way through the season and we just have to continue to work and get better."
Despite the success, what will resonate from the trip is the execution of Saturday's plan to have Romo make the first start of his 11-year career. The Rays went on to a 5-3 victory that day. Romo's second start came less than 24 hours later, and even in a Rays' defeat, the new pitching plan continues to have merit.
The Rays actually outhit the Angels 7-4 on Sunday. And the Angels' two-run fourth inning was helped by an Andriese fielding error. Envisioning how the season will unfold just got a bit harder for Romo. And that is not a bad thing.
"Anything the team asks me to do," Romo said. "I'm very thankful every day they let me through the doors. I have a locker with my name on it, a jersey with my name on it and an opportunity to play and contribute every day. If they ask me to start, obviously I'm down to start. If they ask me come pitch in the fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, 10th, 11th, 12th … yeah, I'm in. Whatever they want, I'm in."
MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
When the Angels took a 2-1 lead in the fourth inning on Martin Maldonado's sacrifice fly to center field, it was the first time that the Rays had trailed in a game since the end of their blowout one week prior, on May 13 against the Orioles. They would be unable to reclaim the lead.
The Rays' six-game win streak that ended Sunday was the franchise's longest on the road since an eight-game run in 2014 at Detroit, Minnesota and St. Louis. The Rays are also 10-2 over their last 12 games at Angel Stadium, but are just 11-17 at home against the Angels since the start of 2010.
YOU GOTTA SEE THIS
Rookie Johnny Field connected on his fourth career home run, going deep in the third inning against Ohtani. Two of those four home runs came in the series at Anaheim, as he also hit one Thursday. He is not only 17-for-48 (.354) over his last 14 games since April 28, he was 7-for-16 (.438) in the series against the Angels.
HE SAID IT
"I'll definitely play some center field. I don't know if Slo-Mo Romo can run those balls down like K.K. [Kevin Kiermaier] or Mallex [Smith], or any of those guys, but I'll stand out there," -- Romo, when asked if his offer to do anything the team needs includes playing center field
After a day off Monday, right-hander Jake Faria (3-2, 5.20 ERA) will take the mound in the opener of a six-game homestand and three-game series against the Red Sox on Tuesday night with a 7:10 p.m. ET start time. Faria is 2-0 at home with a 1.74 ERA and has allowed one run of fewer in all four of his starts at Tropicana Field. The Red Sox will counter with left-hander Chris Sale (4-1, 2.29), who returns to pitch in his home state.