Rays regain a five-game lead in AL East

by Gary Shelton on August 13, 2021

in general

Zunino's three-run homer finished Boston off./TIM WIRT

Friday, 4 a.m.

Poor Boston. It was midway through the game, tie score, and the Red Sox didn't know how much trouble they were in.

The Red Sox were at home, and they were coming off a huge win. The game was 1-1, even though neither team had hit much.

And then, once again, the Rays dropped the hammer.

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This is standard for the Rays, who lead baseball in scoring in late innings. Much of their success this year had been predicated on the bullpen taking over and the offense waking up late. This time, the Rays scored three times in the sixth and four in the eighth to pull away from Boston for an 8-1 win.

The victory, coming hours after a 20-8 loss, re-established a five-game lead for the Rays in the AL East.

It was a big win for the Rays, who had five relief pitchers combine for a two-hitter. Drew Rasmussen started and went four innings, allowing just one hit. The final four relievers threw one-hit, shutout baseball.

For the Rays' offense, rookie Wander Franco had a two-run homer in the sixth inning and catcher Mike Zunino hit a three-run shot in the eighth.

"Very tremendous at bat," Rays' manager Kevin Cash said of Franco's homer, which came on the 11th pitch of his at-bat. "We’re seeing Wander make the adjustments. He had seen everything the guy had. Laying off tough pitches. Wander put a really good swing on it. I couldn’t be more impressed with the way he’s going."

On July 28, the Red Sox were 2 1/2 games up in the AL East. Since then, they've won just three of 14 games.

But Boston remains dangerous, as Wednesday night's 19 hit, 20-run attack shows. For Rays relievers to throw a two-hitter against them was impressive.

"He was awesome," Cash said of Rasmussen. "Good for Drew. Two hits, one run in this game. Good for all the guys. Drew was efficient, very clean. Take away two Kiki Hernandez at bats and t was a perfect outing.

"We don't have many guys down there we envisioned being in our bullpen. Good for them. Whoever it is, it seems like they feed  off each other."

The Rays now move to Minnesota. Shane McClanahan will open tonight's game (8:10 p.m.) against Michael Pineda of the Twins.

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