For the Rays, it was a powerful statement – literally.
Facing a three-point deficit – and dormant mid-game attack – the Rays used a pair of home runs to get past Oakland A’s 4-3 on Sunday afternoon and put in a punctuation mark. on a successful road trip on the west coast.
“Home races can take away a lot of questions,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
Trailing 3-0 in the fifth inning, with A southpaw Cole Irvin largely unscathed, the Rays had a three-run homerun from eighth hitter Willy Adames.
In the sixth, Irvin was on a strike from a breakout. But Mike Brosseau, batting .122 in his last 17 games, picked a 1-2 slider and delivered a solo homerun for the lead that the Rays wouldn’t lose.
Rays left-hander Shane McClanahan pitched especially well in his four innings, dropping three runs after two strikeouts in the fourth, but the biggest story was the bullpen. The four-spoke relievers have stopped the As’s in the last five innings. Jeffrey Springs (3-1) took the win with a perfect fifth set.
âAn exceptional effort from our enclosure,â said Cash. âEveryone who entered had to be there and turn off the lights. And they really were.
âWe left home wanting to play better baseball and we did. We found ways to win in Anaheim (with a four-game Angels sweep). We competed well (in Oakland). We had the big hits which were huge and we should feel good on the trip home.
The Rays’ 5-2 road trip was highlighted by the long balloon. They have hit nine home runs in the seven games, accounting for 16 of 34 points, including the four points on Sunday.
âIt’s important to us,â said Adames. âWe’re not a team that’s going to hit a lot of home runs. Whenever this happens, we have to accept and appreciate it and keep doing it. It’s contagious.
“I’m glad I had the opportunity to kick the ball and luckily it came out.”
Until the fifth inning, little had happened for the Rays’ offense. After Randy Arozarena’s single on the opening pitch of the game, Irvin sent 12 straight batters.
Things didn’t look promising for Brosseau, the fifth inning lead hitter, when he hit a popup high up in the home plate. A catcher Sean Murphy, shielding his eyes from the sun, struggled to keep up. Brosseau too.
âThe way it unfolded, I looked up and lost in the sun like Sean,â said Brosseau. âThe moment it started to come down, I found the ball and it started to drift into fair territory. This is where chaos erupted.
He glanced at Murphy’s glove in clear territory, then bounced off the dirty floor behind the plate. Brosseau, a passive observer until then, rushed to first base but thought his lack of awareness could be costly.
âAt that point, it was too late for me to get to second (base),â said Brosseau. “It’s up to me not to run hard out of the box.”
In the end, it didn’t matter. Joey Wendle doubled up on the right – the line shot skipped a backhand attempt on Matt Olson’s first base – and the Rays had two runners in goal position. After a pop-out from Mike Zunino, Adames changed the momentum of the game with his opposite field homer just breaking through the right field fence.
âIrvin got us off balance,â Cash is sad. “It was a great success for Willy.”
Irvin returned to work in the sixth, getting two quick outs. But Brosseau timed Irvin’s 1-2 cursor and produced a home run.
âWe know that if we put a few points on the board, our pitching team will put us in a good position,â said Brosseau. “To pass these races, it was a good impression.”
From there, the Rays’ survey pen did the heavy lifting. There was a tense streak in Oakland’s eighth inning. Pete Fairbanks took a one-way walk to Olson, then Cash turned to Andrew Kittredge. Matt Chapman’s single-seeded runners in the first and second row, bringing up Seth Brown, who had scored in each of the first two games of the series.
Kittredge’s 0-1 pitch for Brown escaped Zunino – but not far enough. After stepping back first, Olson broke for the third. But Zunino was quick to gather the wandering ground, then shot Wendle in the third, grabbing the runner and ending the round.
âNot the way we write it, but we’re going to take it,â Cash said. “It seems like every little thing counts (in A game).”
The Rays did the little things. They also did great things. Together, it made a powerful statement – and a happy flight home.
â¢ â¢ â¢
Sign up for the weekly Rays Report newsletter to get new perspectives on the Tampa Bay Rays and the rest of the majors from sports columnist John Romano.
Never miss the latest news with college sports Bucs, Rays, Lightning, Florida and more. Follow our Tampa Bay Times sports team on Twitter and Facebook.