ST. PETERSBURG -- Erick Aybar and Fernando Rodney aren't just ex-teammates and fellow countrymen. They're great friends -- best friends, even. The two met in winter ball when Aybar was 19 years old, live 20 miles away in the Dominican Republic, are close with each other's families and talk almost daily, even though they haven't played on the same team since Rodney was the Angels' setup man/closer from 2010-11.
Late Tuesday night, Aybar finally picked up some serious bragging rights, stroking a two-run, go-ahead double in the ninth that gave the Angels a 6-5 win and handed Rodney his eighth blown save. And sure enough, the two were meeting up postgame.
But Aybar didn't plan on bringing it up.
"We're just going to relax a little bit," Aybar said, smiling from ear-to-ear after keying the Angels' fourth consecutive victory by driving in four runs. "What happened, happened. It's in the past. We leave that here. That's the game, and it's part of baseball. We'll pretend like it didn't happen."
They can pretend all they want, but the Angels are riding a rare high right now, even though their season has been almost a constant low.
Down a run in the ninth against Rodney -- 4-for-4 in saves against the Angels last season -- Peter Bourjos reached after a fielder's choice with one out and stole second. He moved to third on a balk by Rodney, but was called back because J.B. Shuck stepped out of the batter's box, then moved to third anyway when Shuck's shallow fly ball fell off the tip of center fielder Desmond Jennings' glove for an error.
Then, with runners on second and third, Aybar got a 1-1, 99-mph fastball from Rodney and laced it into the right-center field gap to plate the two runs that eventually gave the Angels their first four-game winning streak since capturing seven in a row from June 25-July 2.
Aybar came in with a .280 batting average with runners in scoring position, but was 0-for-4 lifetime against his buddy.
"That's baseball," said Rodney, second in the Majors in blown saves. "It happens sometimes."
The night, quite fittingly, was capped off by Dane De La Rosa.
Ernesto Frieri had pitched only twice in nine days, so when the Angels (59-71) trailed the Rays (74-56) by one in the bottom of the eighth, Angels manager Mike Scioscia used Frieri to make sure he got in the game, while knowing he could go to the frequently-used De La Rosa if his team scored in the next half-inning.
Then De La Rosa -- signed by the Rays after three years of independent ball in November 2009, only to spend most of the next three years in their system before being traded to the Angels at the end of Spring Training in 2013 -- pitched around a leadoff walk to record his second career save.
Afterwards, De La Rosa was asked if it meant more to get a save against this team: "[Heck] yeah it meant more," he responded.
"Having these guys give me kind of my second chance, or fifth or sixth chance in baseball, it does mean more," the 30-year-old right-hander added. "It's kind of like a full-circle kind of deal, being with them from my start going up to now being here. It's kind of cool."
C.J. Wilson gave up only three runs, but put 13 runners on base -- eight via hits, five via a season-high-tying five walks -- and required 111 pitches to record 15 outs. In the sixth and the Angels trailing, 3-1, with the bases loaded and two outs, young lefty Buddy Boshers gave up a two-run single to James Loney to make it a four-run deficit.
But the Angels' offense -- fifth in the Majors in OPS despite being without Albert Pujols and getting little from Josh Hamilton -- came all the way back, with three in the seventh and two in the ninth to hand Tampa Bay a third straight loss.
"Our offense is awesome," Wilson said. "We've had some games where we get pitched really tough, but we score. We score runs. We have a lot of guys that are hungry, that really want to do some damage in these last couple weeks of the season. Tampa Bay is obviously on their way to the playoffs, possibly, but if we can cause any disruptions, that's the only thing we can really do right now."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.