Sonnanstine pitched eight innings of six-hit ball, Erik Hinske homered and the Rays completed the first winning April in franchise history by beating the Baltimore Orioles 8-1 Wednesday night.
The victory was the seventh in eight games for the Rays, who went 14-12 in April (after going 1-0 in March). Now in its 11th year of existence, Tampa Bay has never been three games over .500 this late in the season.
"It's something we can build on," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "Now let's have the best May in club history."
Sonnanstine (4-1) gave up one run, walked two and had a season-high five strikeouts in winning his third straight start. He became the first Tampa Bay pitcher to win four games in April and tied the team record for wins in any month.
"I felt pretty good. My location was spotty early," Sonnanstine said. "After the third inning, I was locked in."
The Rays have to make room for Scott Kazmir, who comes off the disabled list Sunday, and Sonnanstine [who entered with a 5.28 ERA] was one of three starters Maddon listed Tuesday as the potential odd-man out. At this point, however, it appears his job is safe.
"Unflappable is a word for him. He had one bad outing," Maddon said, referring to an April 14 game against New York in which Sonnanstine yielded seven runs in 3 1-3 innings. "Since then he has rebounded and pitched his game."
Tampa Bay pulled away with a five-run seventh. After B.J. Upton chased Bob McCrory with an RBI single, Pena and Dioner Navarro hit two-run singles off Dennis Sarfate. Pena had gone 14 games without an RBI since April 12.
Sarfate and Pena exchanged words in the eighth, and for a moment it seemed that both dugouts might empty. But the situation quickly cooled, and Pena bounced into an inning-ending double play.
Baltimore starter Matt Albers (2-1) allowed three runs and four hits in six innings.
"I made a couple of bad pitches, the one to Hinske, obviously," Albers said. "Fastball in, and it came over the plate. It wasn't a real bad pitch, but he got to it."
The loss dropped the Orioles into a second-place tie with Tampa Bay in the AL East behind Boston, a 2-1 winner over Toronto.
The Rays got a second-inning run on a sacrifice fly by Gabe Gross. After Roberts' RBI single in the third, Sonnanstine avoided further damage by striking out Melvin Mora and Luke Scott with runners on the corners.
"The two strikeouts with men on, that was huge for us," Sonnanstine said. "We shut the door on them. That inning gave us momentum."
It had the opposite effect on the Orioles.
"Yeah, it would have been nice to get a hit there and score another run, and we didn't," manager Dave Trembley said. "(Sonnanstine) just pitched better. You've got to tip your cap to him."
Tampa Bay finished April with a 3.74 ERA, the best month in franchise history. ... Roberts went 2-for-3 with a walk in extending his hitting streak to 10 games. He's 13-for-37 (.351) in that span. ... Tampa Bay's previous best April was 12-12 in 1999. ... McCrory allowed four runs, two hits and two walks in his major league debut. His ERA is 108.00. ... Baltimore dipped to 10-5 at home.