Remember him? Miller powers Rays to victory

by Gary Shelton on July 10, 2017 · 0 comments

in general

Souza lifts Miller after his big home run.//CARMEN MANDATO

Souza lifts Miller after his big home run.//CARMEN MANDATO

Monday, 4 a.m.

The forgotten man of the Tampa Bay Rays gave fans something to remember Sunday afternoon.

Brad Miller, yesterday's hero, hit a two-run homer to dead centerfield to enable the Rays to come from behind and beat the Boston Red Sox, 5-3. The Rays returned to four games over .500, their best mark of the season. The Rays have now won or split 14 of their last 17 series.

That speaks well of this year's team. But Miller? Wasn't he last season's news?

Certainly, it has been a difficult year for Miller, who hit 30 home runs last year. Going into Sunday's game, he had but two this year and was

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Archer entered Sunday's game with great expectorations./CARMEN MANDATO

Archer entered Sunday's game with great expectorations./CARMEN MANDATO

hitting only .209. Add his injuries and his wobbly defense, and Miller had begun to look something like a spare part. Last season was beginning to resemble one large fluke.

Sunday, however, Miller was muscle once again. Batting against Joe Kelly, the almost untouchable reliever of the Red Sox, Miller fell behind 0-2 before hitting his home run 419 feet. Kelly had pitched 22 consecutive scoreless innings before Miller's blast.

“That felt good,” Miller said. “It was a huge series win against the team we're looking up at.”

Mallex Smith's speed helped to tie Sunday's game./CARMEN MANDATO

Mallex Smith's speed helped to tie Sunday's game./CARMEN MANDATO

A lot of fans might have predicted Miller's fall to earth; he had never approached last season's 30 homers in any other year. But it's been a struggle. He's not adjusted well to second, and he hasn't hit. Before Sunday, his last homer came on May 9.

“You just keep fighting,” Miller said. “I know I'm always going to battle back and fight. We have a lot of games left. It was hard just missing games. But while I was missing them, our team has been doing great. I'd much rather have us win like that. We are right in the hunt.”

Cash said the team still believed in Miller.

“Brad has had a long season to this point with injuries and not performing to the standards he set last year,” Cash said. “But wow, that was a big hit. It might have been as big as any he's had in his Rays career.

“I think the injuries probably bothered him more than anything,” Cash said. “We've never lost confidence that Brad is going to hit. He's got a track record of hitting. This year, the injuries didn't allow him to get hot. Maybe now is his time. When he does get hot, he can carry us.”

It wouldn't surprise Souza.

“We know what type of hitter he is," Souza said. "He's had an amazing year last year and he's swung the bat really well. There's no one else we want up there but Brad. Man, he's got a knack for getting some clutch hits."

This time a year ago, Miller had 14 homers and was hitting .288. This year, he spent two stints on the disabled list.

The Rays took their third game of the four-game series against the Red Sox.

Longoria drove in two more runs for the Rays./CARMEN MANDATO

Longoria drove in two more runs for the Rays./CARMEN MANDATO

The game began as a battle between the Red Sox' David Price and the Rays' Chris Archer, two old buddies who happen to be second- and third on the team's all-time start list. Archer gave up a first-inning homer to Mookie Betts, but he settled down and led 2-1into the seventh when Justin Pedroia hit a two-run homer to give the Sox the lead.

Archer has given up 13 home run balls this season, and five have come in the sixth inning or later. Four of them gave the opponents the lead.

“You tip your hat to Dustin Pedroia,” Cash said. “He’s done it for a long time and he’s done it to a lot of great pitchers. The guy seems to have a knack for rising to the moment and he did today, but it didn’t deter anything that we were trying to accomplish.

But the Rays battled back. Once again,the team defense was excellent. Steve Souza Jr. made a highlight reel play with a diving catch in the right field foul territory, and Corey Dickerson lept to take a home run away from Jackie Bradley.

“Souza's makes a lot of great plays out there,” said Rays' manager Kevin Cash. “That's right there with the best I've seen. We're going to ssee that a bunch on replays. When we play good defense, we win.”

Said Souza: “I felt like they were getting some momentum so just trying to make a

Souza Jr. had two hits and made a great catch./CARMEN MANDATO

Souza Jr. had two hits and made a great catch./CARMEN MANDATO

play for Arch. He was battling his tail out there. The bullpen does a great job in letting me know how close I am to the wall. I leap for it and very excited to make a big play for Arch right there.

“I didn't think there was enough air under it. Once I got close, I knew I had a chance. I knew I was going to have to be fully extended. "

The play of the Rays left the team juiced as it breaks for the all-star game. The Rays are in the hunt for a wild card spot and seem to be getting hot. Beating the Red Sox in a series has to help.

“It’s huge,” Souza said. “Going into the break against the 1st-place team in our division and to win a series three out of four, they did it to us earlier in the year so to take this against a really good team over there shows what we are capable of in the second half to come. All three of these wins really came from different guys the whole game and that’s what you are going to see from our team from here on out.”

Evan Longoria drove in two runs with a single and a sacrifice fly for the Rays. Souza had two hits and scored two runs.

The Rays are now off until Friday whe they play at Anaheim. Jake Faria pitches for Tampa Bay.

Archer reacts to giving up a go-ahead homer to Dustin Pedroia./CARMEN MANDATO

Archer reacts to giving up a go-ahead homer to Dustin Pedroia./CARMEN MANDATO

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