The difference between the current Tampa Bay team and the one that opened the season with six straight defeats was made evident this weekend during the Rays' three-game sweep of the Baltimore Orioles.
B.J. Upton drove in four runs, Matt Joyce hit two doubles and scored twice, and Tampa Bay never trailed in a 5-3 victory Sunday.
Not only did the Rays set a single-season franchise record with their eighth consecutive road win, but they avenged a three-game sweep by the Orioles in Tampa Bay to open the season.
"We won three against them, they won three against us. That's about all the payback you can get," Rays designated hitter Johnny Damon said. "They caught us at the right time at our place and we caught them at the right time here."
Tampa Bay is 20-8 after starting 0-6. The Rays are hitting better, pitching effectively and riding a crest of momentum that has carried them into contention in the AL East.
"We're playing good baseball right now," said Ben Zobrist, who had two hits and is riding a 14-game hitting streak. "We're hitting the ball really well, scoring some runs, which is nice. It keeps things going, everybody gets excited when you're scoring a lot of runs."
The return of Evan Longoria has helped, too. Longoria, who left the second game of the season with a strained left oblique, went 5 for 12 with five RBIs in this three-game series.
"I think we played, what, a game and a half without Longoria out there?" Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "That certainly makes it a completely different look."
Upton had four hits and no RBIs in the first three-game series between the teams. In this one, he went 7 for 14 with eight runs driven in.
Upton received a two-game suspension from Major League Baseball on Saturday for his demonstrative actions after being ejected from a game on Wednesday. The outfielder appealed the suspension because he wanted to play in Baltimore, where he experienced much success in the past.
"I like hitting here because I normally have a lot of family and friends come in," said Upton, who was born in Norfolk, Va. "This is a good field for me, it's kind of close to home and I like playing here."
After hitting a three-run homer Saturday, Upton had a pair of two-run singles Sunday. He is batting .297 with nine homers and 31 RBIs in 39 games at Camden Yards.
"Yeah, he felt really strongly about playing here," manager Joe Maddon said. "Nice job."
Derrek Lee homered for the last-place Orioles, who have lost four straight to fall a season-high five games under .500 (14-19). Baltimore got only six hits.
"Things haven't gone our way — yet. We're definitely underachieving," left fielder Luke Scott said. "We can do a whole lot better than we're doing. It will happen. It's a long season."
Tampa Bay's Wade Davis (4-2) allowed three runs, four hits and five walks in five innings. He has won his last four starts.
Kyle Farnsworth got four outs for his seventh save in eight opportunities.
Baltimore starter Brad Bergesen (0-4) yielded five runs and nine hits in 4 2-3 innings. He is 0-5 lifetime against the Rays and has not completed the sixth inning in any of his five starts.
Tampa Bay used four straight hits to take a 3-0 lead in the fourth. Damon doubled and scored on a bloop single by Longoria, who took third on a double by Joyce. Upton followed with a two-run single.
Matt Wieters hit a two-run double in the bottom half, but the Orioles stranded two runners for the third time in four innings.
The Rays made it 5-2 in the fifth. After Zobrist singled and Joyce hit a ground-rule double with two outs, Upton bounced a single up the middle to chase Bergesen.
Lee led off the Baltimore half with his fourth home run, only the second allowed by Wade this season.
NOTES: Rays OF Brandon Guyer, who homered in his first major league at-bat Friday night, was optioned to Triple-A Durham. Tampa Bay recalled RHP Rob Delaney from the same club, and the rookie pitched a perfect sixth inning Sunday. ... Wieters had two hits and is 10 for 15 with runners in scoring position. ... The Orioles received 18 walks in the series, and only two of them turned into runs.