Unknowns let Rays advance in playoffs

by Gary Shelton on October 1, 2020

in general

Zunino's two-run homer got the Rays started fast./TIM WIRT

Thursday, 4 a.m.

Here's the thing about unsung heroes. Sometimes, the playoffs is a perfect time to sing.

Just ask Hunter Renfroe.

And Mike Zunino.

The two forgotten Rays, barely hitting .300 if you added their averages together, powered the Rays to a surprisingly easy victory over the Toronto Blue Jays Wednesday night. The win gave the Rays a series win in their best-of-three series in the American League playoffs.

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Renfroe and Zunino both struck in the bottom of the second inning. Renfroe, hitting just .156 on the season, launched a grand slam shortly after Zunino hit a two-run shot. Both blasts came off Toronto ace Hyun Jin Ryu.

"They played well to beat that team twice like that," Rays' manager Kevin Cash said. "A tight ballgame yesterday, and today we were fortunate  to be able to separate a little bit early. We pitched extremely well. The defense -- we pride ourselves so much on defense. It really showed up over the last two games. The opportunity in front of us is where you want to be. We're very excited to be heading to San Diego."

The Blue Jays must have hoped that the Rays would go into the game with one of their pronounced funks on offense. It never happened, however. The Rays came out swinging.

The big blow was by Renfroe, who has become a spare part around here. His grand slam was the first such hit in post-season for the Rays.

"Hunter’s going to play a big role in this," Cash said. "You can wash out what’s taken place this season. We value him in our lineup. For Hunter to put the game into that stage was huge.”

Said Renfroe: “Obviously, I didn’t have a whole lot of luck on my side during the regular season. You’ve got to help the team win by doing .anything you can possibly do. You don’t care about your stats, you don’t care about personal accolades.”

Zunino has been swinging the bat better, but his two-run shot gave the Rays a 3-0 lead.

“I think (the game) showed the potential of what we can do on both sides of the ball," Zunino said. "In Game One, Blake threw an absolute gem. Today the bats were coming alive. It sort of solidifies who we are as a team. For me, who we play is -- I don’t want to say irrelevant. But if we can have quality at-bats, I like our odds against anyone.”

Tyler Glasnow struck out eight over six innings, allowing only two home runs to Danny Jansen.

The Rays now go to San Diego to continue their post-season.

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