At this moment, the Rays are good (but hang on)

by Gary Shelton on September 1, 2019 · 0 comments

in general

d’Arnaud tags out the Indians Lindor at the plate./CHUCK MULLER

Sunday, 4 a.m.

Do you have them figured out yet?

The puzzling Tampa Bay Rays are at their best after they have been at their worst. And just when they convince you they are good, they prove that they are not. They are Team Contrarian, defying whatever you may believe of them. Trust them at your own risk. Distrust them at your own peril.

Saturday was a day for the good Rays, who won their third straight game with a 9-6 victory over the Cleveland Indians. The win meant that only a half-game separates those two and Oakland in the Wild-Card race.

The winning streak brings them only to 8-8 in their last 16 games. On the other hand, they’ve won 20 of their last 30. Are they hot? Are they cold? It depends on which angle you look at them from.

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Garcia slides across home in Tampa Bay’s win over Cleveland./CHUCK MULLER

Tampa Bay hit four home runs, and scored three times each in the sixth and seventh innings. Cleveland scored four of its runs in the eighth and ninth to force the Rays to bring in closer Emilio Pagan, who recorded his 16th save.

Jalen Beeks went three innings for the Rays without giving up a run and earned his sixth victory of the season.

Pagan records his 16th save of the season./CHUCK MULLER

Rays’ manager Kevin Cash was impressed with his team’s response to the playoff race.

“We feel good about our chances,” Cash said. “We’re getting closer to being healthy, but the guys that are in this clubhouse right now active, playing are capable of stringing together a good month. If we get some additions back, on the pitching side we’re getting closer to that, that’ll be great. We’re certainly pleased with the effort level and the way guys have competed for five months. Now they get to go compete really hard for the sixth.”

Cash was pleased with his team’s offense on Saturday.

Choi hits his 13th HR of the year./CHUCK MULLER

“It was really impressive,” Cash said. “We needed it, the way the bullpen was taxed and as aggressive as we got. It was a tight ballgame there for a while. Certainly impressed there with the at-bats and piecing it together and then getting the big hits. Ji-Man, Travis, Avi and Tommy. That was a big one to take the lead right there.

“Big hits. Got some pitches we could handle. As far as the pitching went, Jalen did a good job. I thought he did a good job with a willingness to throw the ball over the plate. They were on some pitches, obviously. Oliver Drake, for me, what he did—probably had no business pitching, but to come in and get that big double play was huge.”

Pham celebrates his 20th homer of the season./CHUCK MULLER

Cash is glad to see the bats heating up.

“Very, very encouraging that those guys—Avi probably right at the top of the list,” Cash said. “Coming off the I.L., he’s been kind of quiet, but between today and yesterday smoking a couple balls, it’s good. We’ve got guys that are capable of getting hot and then two or three guys can carry a load. That’s not how you draw it up, but if those guys that we’re talking about get hot, we can have a pretty special offense for a month.”

Pham hit his 20th home run on the season.

“Today I went up to 60 pounds on the dumbbell, which that’s huge from, I don’t

Rays’ Sogard makes the turn./CHUCK MULLER

know, two weeks ago when I was at 25,” Pham said. “Gradual progression. You always want to finish strong. Playoff push. Have to contribute to help us win.”

Pagan had eight of his 16 saves during the month of August.

“I told you I was going to be ready,” Pagan said. “I put in a lot of work in the offseason to be able to pitch as much as I can. Going down the stretch we’ve got to win as many games as we can. I told them I’d be ready yesterday. They said they’d check with me again today when we got in. I was confident that I’d feel good, and I did.”

Pagan, too, credited the offense.

“It’s crazy,” he said. “I said it a few weeks ago—there was going to be a stretch where the offense would carry us and it was going to be like ‘Where was this when we were

Rays’ Wendle was sharp in the field./CHUCK MULLER

struggling?’ We’ve got a ton of talented hitters in our lineup. This game’s hard. They’re facing major league pitchers just like we’re facing major league hitters. Everybody’s going to go through their struggles. Unfortunately for us, it seemed like a lot of guys were going through their struggles at one time. But we believe in those guys more than anybody else. We know when our backs are up against the walls that guys like Tommy Pham, Eric Sogard, Matt Duffy are going to put together good at-bats and put other guys in the lineup in good situations to drive in runs and get wins.”

It was Garcia’s second striaght impressive day.

“You’ve got to get your rhythm in the game and your timing,” Garcia said. “It’s big league pitching. It’s not the same. Just try to come here, do my best and make adjustments.”

The Rays go for the sweep against Cleveland today behind Charlie Morton (13-6). The Indians will counter with Adam Plutko (6-3). The game begins at 1:10 p.m. at Tropicana Field.

Rays’ Pinto watches Lindor round third after his home run./CHUCK MULLER

 

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