ST. PETERSBURG -- The customary cloak and dagger game between Joe Maddon and Buck Showalter played out with a final showdown in the eighth inning on Monday night.
All that could be said at the end of this one was, "Well played, Maddon."
Thanks to Maddon's counter move to one of Showalter's, the Rays came away with a 5-4 win at Tropicana Field, giving the Rays their first win in six tries against the Orioles this season.
With two outs and a runner aboard in the eighth, Maddon opted to send left-handed hitting David DeJesus to the plate as a pinch-hitter to face right-hander Darren O'Day. Showalter immediately countered by going with the lefty Brian Matusz, prompting Maddon to look to his bench and call on right-handed-hitting Jerry Sands.
"I didn't know what [Showalter] was going to do," Maddon said. "I swear I didn't. But if he didn't [bring in Matusz], then we have DeJesus on [O'Day]. And if he did, we had Sands on the other guy."
Once both managers had played their hands, Sands made his manager look the smartest by slugging a 2-0 pitch that hugged the line en route to the left-field stands to give the Rays a 5-3 lead, putting them on track for their fourth win in five games.
"Got two pitches out of the way for balls," Sands said. "So I got a little more comfortable in the box. Then I got one to hit. ... Just tried to get the head out there. Didn't want to miss it if he did give me something to hit there. So I tried to get the head out and luckily it stayed fair."
Maddon deferred credit for the outcome.
"It's all about the players," Maddon said. "You think things through. You do it every night. And the old saying that Marcel Lachemann and I used to have after instructional league games: You feel so smart when you win and so dumb when you lose. And you haven't done anything differently, which is true."
Sands has now posted game-winning pinch-hits in each of the Rays' last two games. On Sunday afternoon, he had a single in the eighth. On Monday night, he came through with his first career pinch-hit home run.
"It's big obviously for this team," Sands said. "We've been struggling to get some wins here lately and it's fun to be the guy that does it for the team."
Showalter noted that Matusz has "gotten some big outs" for the Orioles.
"It didn't happen tonight," Showalter said. "Usually you like to have some pitches you'd like to take back, but you can't. But nobody talks about all the good pitches you made to get to that point."
The Rays (28-43), who had hit just 50 home runs in their first 70 games, came away with three on Monday night. Prior to Sands' game-winner, Yunel Escobar hit a solo home run in the first and Ryan Hanigan added a two-run blast in the fourth to stake the Rays to a 3-0 lead.
That lead looked comfortable with Jake Odorizzi on the mound. The right-hander entered the game after allowing just one run in a 7 1/3-innings performance against the Cardinals. And he picked up where he left off by posting five scoreless frames before Adam Jones touched him for a two-run homer in the sixth that cut the lead to 3-2.
Baltimore tied the game in the eighth when Grant Balfour allowed back-to-back singles to start the inning before exiting with one out. Jake McGee took over and walked Chris Davis to load the bases before Nelson Cruz's "Baltimore chop" against McGee drove home Nick Markakis for the Orioles' third run.
The Rays have won four of their last five after losing 14 of 15 prior to that.
"I just thought we had a nice crisp sharpness about us tonight," Maddon said.
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.