NS. PETERSBURG – The Rays finally ended their strange losing streak against the Mariners and finished an important nine-game homestand with a high grade on Wednesday afternoon at Tropicana Field.
The Rays, who face Seattle for the seventh and final time this season, scored a 4-3 win to take a 5-4 stand at The Trop against three postseason contenders: the Yankees, Red Sox and Mariners. The streak victory prevented the Rays from being swept against an American League opponent for the fourth time this season in a streak and third time in franchise history in a season streak after losing their first six games to Seattle that year .
Better late than never, right?
“It felt really good. The boys make jokes in the clubhouse like, ‘Nobody is attacking us. They can get a series sweep, but they won’t do it again, ‘”said starter Josh Fleming. “It was just nice to bring the win into the off-day and into the long road trip.”
And it was an uplifting conclusion to a long, to say the least eventful stay at home.
In the past nine days, the Rays lost two out of three to the Yankees, swept the Red Sox in a series that included the first Sunday Night baseball game here in a decade, rose to first place in the American League East, traded Diego Castillo to the Mariners for relief worker JT Chargois and budding Austin Shenton, adding to their roster ahead of Friday’s trading deadline, officially losing ace Tyler Glasnow to Tommy John’s operation at the end of the season and then dropping two in a row to the Mariners, before they win on Wednesday to make sure they stay on top of the division on their upcoming road trip to Baltimore, Boston and Minnesota.
“We knew this was going to be an annoying home stand,” said Rays manager Kevin Cash. “We faced three good teams, all with good records, and we seemed to be fighting well with the first two and even Seattle. … It’s nice to come out of the home stand with a winning record. “
Seattle struck first in the series finals when Dylan Moore singled and finally scored in the third inning against Fleming on a base goal from JP Crawford. The left-hander then minimized the damage, allowing two runs with five hits while hitting six over five innings. Fleming was also at the forefront of his soft, contact-inducing game which, according to Statcast, enabled a low-career average exit speed of 78.4 mph and only delivered three hard-hit balls.
“It just seemed to be every throw I wanted to throw [catcher Mike Zunino] took it off, ”said Fleming. “Anytime that connection goes too early, that’s a good thing.”
In the bottom third, Tampa Bay took the lead, albeit in an unusual way. Brandon Lowe hit a lead-off double to directly oust Mariners starter Logan Gilbert, then Ji-Man Choi left to set two runners. Randy Arozarena stabbed a line drive into midfield, but Jarred Kelenic lost it in the light when he left his feet to dive on. The ball jumped to the outer field wall when Lowe and Choi met in the RBI triple from Arozarena, then Joey Wendle made it a 3-1 game with a sacrificial flight into the center.
“When I saw it collapse, I decided to take off and kept an eye on the runners in front of me,” said Arozarena of his triple-through interpreter Manny Navarro. “In a situation like this, especially where we are in the overall standings, we have to find a way to keep running one way or another.”
The Rays survived their own misfortune in the sixth field. Before the inning against Fleming, Mitch Haniger hit a hard floor ball where an unmoved shortstop could have been. But the ball raced past second baseman Lowe and into the gap where Arozarena slid on it but didn’t stop. The ball was also kicked away by midfielder Kevin Kiermaier, so Haniger could reach third base and finally meet Kyle Seager’s sacrificial fly against Chargois.
Zunino made sixth place for an insurance run with his 21st home run of the season. The all-star catcher has only hit .156 in 13 games since break, but two of his five hits were homers – and the one he met on Wednesday was key for him and the Rays.
“I felt like the swing was headed in the right direction,” said Zunino. “Coming there, coming to a fastball and just driving felt good. I’ve worked with for a good couple of days [hitting coach Chad Mottola], so to see how it is translated is nice. “
Zunino’s solo shot also proved necessary as the Mariners made it a one-run game in game eight with two hits and a wild pitch from Matt Wisler. But the Tampa Bay bullpen, remade out of necessity due to injuries, held out as Ryan Sherriff recorded his second career with a perfect ninth inning.
With that, the Rays entered the field to celebrate a welcome win, a victorious home streak – and perhaps the end of their season streak with the Mariners.
“It’s good to win the last one,” said Zunino. “It’s one of those things I can’t put a finger on. A few breaks here and there, hit a few games at full speed. It is just like that. It’s baseball. Its so funny.
“But maybe it’s better that our series is done with them.”