Rays look more and more complete as they win

by Gary Shelton on May 31, 2021

in general

Wendle had a big two-out hit./JEFFREY S. KING

Monday, 3 a.m.

Not long ago, it was hard to see the true beauty of the Tampa Bay Rays. There were just so many warts in the way.

There were blemishes and flaws, scars and scabs. If it wasn't the pitching that failed to satisfy you, it was the hitting. It was the bullpen, and it was the ineptitude with runners in scoring position. It seemed like a flawed roster, and for a long time, the Rays looked very much like a team going nowhere.

Lately? Lately, they overwhelm you with their completeness. They can hit. They can pitch. They can steal doubles in the outfield. They can take bases on you. They can hit with two men out.

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And they can win. The Rays won their 15th game in 16 Sunday, beating the Philadelphia Phillies 6-2. The Rays are now 34-20. A year ago, when they went to the World Series, they were 40-20 through the regular season.

The Rays scored all six of their runs with two out, and they got shutout pitching from five of their six pitchers.

“Just kind of scrapping," is the way Joey Wendle described it. "And Mike Zunino. Talk about someone who has been clutch when we need him. It seems like to start out every game, he’s putting  us ahead with a home run. "

On the scoring with two outs, Wendle said:

"That’s just sticking with it the whole way through the inning and understanding it’s not done until there are three outs. We had a pretty rough stretch for a while where it seemed like we couldn’t buy a hit with runners in scoring position. Now we’re getting some hits with two outs. It seems like things are evening out again."

The Rays won again with the opener strategy, bringing in Josh Fleming with two out in the first. Fleming went 4 2/3 innings to improve his record to 5-3.

Diego Castillo pitched the ninth and worked out of a bases-loaded situation.

"I felt like they were putting pressure on us every inning," said Rays' manager Kevin Cash. "Diego ... good for him for pitching out of a jam that had some tough at-bats there. He stayed at it. It’s a good thing he’s been in that role. There was no panic."

The Rays got off to a 4-0 lead. Mike Zunino -- who leads all catchers in home runs with 12 -- hit a two-run shot to start things. Brett Phillips had a solo shot, and Ji-Man Choi doubled in a run. The final two runs came when Wendle singled to right to drive in another run, and Austin Meadows scored on an overthrow.

"There are a lot of thing going our way," Cash said. "We’d like to think we’re creating some of those things. Guys are taking advantage of those opportlunities. Anytime you're on a run, you’ve got to do a lot of things right."

On Zunino, Wendle said: "“Next level. I’ve never really played with anyone who has constantly hit the ball as hard as he has. The way the ball jumps off his bat is pretty special". 

The Rays have not trailed in their last four games.

They now go to New York for a four-game series against the Yankees at Yankee Stadium. In today's game, Rich Hill will start for the Rays against Jameson Taillon of New York. The game is scheduled for 1:05 p.m.

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