Once again, Pagan saves the Rays’ victory

by Gary Shelton on August 11, 2019 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Rays

Pagan earned his 11th save./JEFFREY S. KING

Sunday, 4 a.m.

Don't look now, but the Tampa Bay Rays may finally have found a closer.

The Rays, who have struggled with their late-inning bullpen for most of the season, have finally found a reliable arm to turn to in that of Emilio Pagan, who has saves in five of his last eight appearances. During those five saves, he's given up only one run.

His work in the ninth Saturday night (two strikeouts, three straight batters retired) allowed the Rays to hold onto a 5-4 victory over the Seattle Mariners.

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Morton won his 13th game of the season./

Pagan had plenty of fellow stars. Starter Charlie Morton went six innings and won his 13th game of the season. Centerfielder Kevin Kiermaier made two nice catches and hit a home run. Catcher Mike Zunino hit a three-run homer in the fifth (Kiermaier  had a solo shot; Avi Garcia hit a solo shot in the sixth).

But the emergence of Pagan may mean as much as any of it as the Rays chase the Wild-Card berth. The Rays hold the second Wild Card berth by a game and a half over Oakland.

Rays' Kiermaier had a big night./CHUCK MULLER

It was Zunino's third home run of August.

"It was a huge hit," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "Our offense wasn’t doing too  much.

The Rays have now won four of their last five one-run games and are 13-15 on the season.

“It was great," Zunino said. "It's one of those things where we’re in a big push. It was a big swing for me. I love the youth, the atmosphere, of this team."

Kiermaier made one catch running in and sliding head first. He made the second leaping just short of the wall against former teammate Mallex Smith.

“I'm always out there trying to make plays any way possible," Kiermaier said. "The one Alex hit toward the wall, it would not have been a homer. I had an extra 2-3 feet. It would have been a triple if I didn’t catch it. Those are plays I love to have an opportunity to make."

Morton struck out 10, but didn't feel he finished strong. He did, however, defend the bullpen.

“I don’t know why they’ve been heavily criticized," Morton said. "Look at who’s thrown the bulk of our innings. A lot’s being put on their shoulders. I  just think it’s unjust. I think they’ve been doing a really great job."

The Rays go for a sweep against the Mariners today. Ryan Yarbrough will throw against Wade LeBlanc in a 4:10 p.m. game.



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