Hello up here: Rays move five over .500 with win

by Gary Shelton on August 23, 2018 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

The pitch is a lottle tight for Mallex Smith./JEFFREY S. KING

The pitch is a little tight for Mallex Smith./JEFFREY S. KING

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

It isn’t the highest mountain top a team can reach. Heck, you can barely see first place in the distance from here.

But for the Tampa Bay Rays, for today, it’s a nice viewpoint.

The Rays reached a season-high of five games over .500 Wednesday night, beating the Kansas City Royals for the third game in a row, 6-3. It put the Rays at 66-61 for the season, which isn’t close enough. They’re still 22 1/2 behind the Red Sox and 13 1/2  behind the Yankees.

But given the expectations placed upon this team before the season, it seems like a forward step.

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Gomez squeezes Willy Adams home in the sixth inning./EFFREY S. KING

Gomez squeezes Willy Adams home in the sixth inning./EFFREY S. KING

The Rays had 10 two-out hits and scored six two-out runs in their victory. In all, Tampa Bay had 14 hits, including six hitters with two hits or more.

Still, the Royals came back to within 4-3 on a two-run homer by Hunter Dozier, a blow that equaled the runs the team had given up in its previous 39 innings. The Rays have pitched to a 1.99 ERA over their last 12 games.

Choi slides into first for an infield single./JEFFREY S. KING

Choi slides into first for an infield single./JEFFREY S. KING

The Rays padded their lead in the eighth, however, on RBI singles by Mallex Smith and Matt Duffy.

Smith, in particular, has been hot as of late. He has multiple hits in six of his last seven games. He's hitting .367 in his last 15 games since moving to the leadoff spot. He's hitting .302, and trying to become the first Ray to hit above .300 since Casey Kotchman in 2011.

Yonny Chirinos got the win for the Rays after going five innings. However, he gave up all three runs on homers by Whit Merrifield and Dozier.

#72 Yonny Chirinos in relief-6009

Chirinos got the win despite giving up two homers./JEFFREY S. KING

"He did a really nice job of getting the sinker back," Rays' manager Kevin Cash said. "He threw some sliders down in the zone. I don’t think his off-speed pitches are quite where we saw them earlier or a couple of weeks ago. Much better. I was just happy. It looked like he was throwing a bowling ball for most of the outing. I know (Hunter) Dozier came up and hit the home run, but it was a big plus outing for him. A bounce-back outing after getting roughed up a little bit against Boston.”

Cash was pleased upon hearing that the Rays had 10 two-out hits.

"That’s really impressive, especially for an offense that has been scuffling so much," Cash said. "There were some great hits by Mallex (Smith), by Brandon

Stanek threw two perfect innings./JEFFREY S. KING

Stanek threw two perfect innings./JEFFREY S. KING

Lowe against a really tough left-hander, but we pieced together. Then we needed to separate the game a little bit and it allowed us to line up the bullpen in the ninth to get Sergio (Romo) in that situation. A lot of good offensive numbers tonight that we kind of needed. Hopefully that carries us into tomorrow and the next series.”

One of the players with two hits was Brandon Lowe, who came into the game hitting just .091.

“It was good," Cash said. "He came up and broke it open there with the 2-out single to score two. That’s all we are looking for. Give him a little bit of confidence. I know since he’s been here, it hasn’t gone the way he’s wanted to, but he’s put together a tremendous season between Double-A, Triple-A and we want to see that continue here at this level.”

Said Lowe: “The confidence they have in me has really helped to let me settle down

Duffy makes the catch on a pop-up./JEFFREY S. KING

Duffy makes the catch on a pop-up./JEFFREY S. KING

and not stress out that I haven’t been tearing it up. They have given me a shot to settle in and give me some experience.”

On his two-out hit in  the second inning, Lowe was happy.

“Any time you can drive in runs, any time that you can have an at-bat that’s beneficial to the team whether it’s a sac fly or a base hit that drives in a couple runs," Lowe said. "I’m just out there trying to do whatever I can to help the team win.”

Another big run for the Rays was Carlos Gomez' squeeze bunt in the sixth. Early in the count, Gomez was given the sign to bunt but missed. Then he tried it on his own, driving in Mallex Smith.

The Rays try for a sweep of the series tonight at 7:10 p.m. at the Trop. Tyler Glasnow pitches fo the Ray against Danny Duffy.

Kiermaier has hit .357 in his last eight games./JEFFREY S. KING

Kiermaier has hit .357 in his last eight games./JEFFREY S. KING

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