Phillips’ bat, of all things, leads Rays’ win

by Gary Shelton on April 28, 2021

in general

Kiermaier was trying to make a play./JEFFREY S. KING

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

In an odd way, it kind of figures that when the Rays' offense finally woke up, it would be a light-hitting outfielder who served as the alarm clock.

Why, hello, Brett Phillips.


Phillips, the Rays' seldom used outfielder, hit a two-run home run in the sixth inning of Tuesday night's 4-3 victory over the Oakland A's, a blow that finally woke up the dormant bats of the offense. An inning later, Joey Wendle's run-scoring single ended a streak of 26 hitless at bats with runners on base.

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Phillips, a star of last year's post-season, entered the game hitting just .154 before his home run.

"I  guessed right there with two strikes — a fastball I think it was — and I'm able to do something cool every once in a while," Phillips said. "It feels good to contribute to a win."

For a while, it looked like another sleepy night for the offense. The Rays trailed 2-1 going into the sixth after scoring just one run in their previous two games.

"He’s a guy who has a lot of physical ability," Rays' manager Kevin Cash said of Phillips. "A lot of tools. He’s worked really hard to find that rhythm at the plate. He’s had sporadic playing time, and it’s not the easiest thing to do at times. He came through in a big way for us today. We were needing a big hit there. "

Michael Wacha pitched five innings and allowed just one earned run, but mostly, what he did was escape. The A's got their leadoff runner on in seven of the nine innings, including a bases-loaded, no-one-out in the second. Wacha escaped that jam and gave up only one run.

Much of the talk after the game was about the A's second run that scored in the sixth on Mitch Moreland's sacrifice fly. Moreland's fly to left seemed to be directly to left fielder Randy Arozarena, but at the last second, Kevin Kiermaier cut in front, caught the ball and threw home. His throw was not in time to get runner Matt Olson.

”I thought long and hard about this," Kiermaier said. "I’ve got to tread lightly  with my wording on it. I know what it looked like from everyone else’s vantage point. I'm in a unique position with my defensive skill set. I’ll never shy away from that. I believe I’m the best defensive outfielder in the game. I’ll put my talents up against anyone. I'm very confident in saying that."

"It's a 1-1 game, and the team hasn’t been playing very good. I’m doing everything in my power to preserve that tie. I have one of the best arms in the big leagues. I’m upset with myself, but I listened to my instincts. I'm doing everything i can to win games. At the end of the day, that’s all i want to do."

Kiermaier had praise for Phillips.

 "He’s got sneaky pop," Kiermaier said. "He does. He can hit it a long way when he hits it right. "

The Rays, now 12-12 on the year, play against Oakland again tonight at 7:10 p.m. at Tropicana Field. Tyler Glasnow will throw for Tampa Bay against the A's Cole Irvin.

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