Zunino’s pinch-hit homer leads comeback

by Gary Shelton on May 4, 2022

in general

Zunino was hitting .106 when he homered./TIM WIRT

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

Give Mike Zunino credit for this. He still knew which direction to go on his trot.

Zunino, perhaps the unlikeliest hero you could imagine for the Rays, sparked a huge rally Tuesday night to lift the Tampa Bay Rays to a 10-7, 10- inning comeback win over Oakland. Zunino hit a two-run homer to tie the game for the Rays in the ninth, then had an RBI single for a tack-on run in a five-run 10th inning.

Zunino was hitting just .106, with five hits on the year, when he pinch-hit for Kevin Kiermaier in the ninth. That was when Wander Franco turned to Yandy Diaz and said "it's about time for Zunino to hit a home run."

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And he did.

Just like that, all was forgiven with the Rays. The bad start by Ryan Yarbrough. The stranded runners. The wasted opportunities. Zunino hit the third pitch he saw over the center-field wall, driving in Manuel Margot, who had singled.

The A's had scored five in the first inning, including a grand slam by Kevin Smith, to take a 5-1 lead. After Brett Phillips hit a two-run homer to narrow the deficit in the second, the Rays couldn't muster a big hit. Randy Arozarena tripled with one out in the third, but he was stranded on base. Tyler Walls doubled in the fourth with one out, but he was picked off second. The Rays had runners on first and third with one out in the fifth, but Arozarena's hard-hit ball was turned into a double play.

Which left it all up to Zunino. If he had hit into a double play, the game would have been over.

Instead. he made Franco look like Nostradamus.

"We should listen to Wander more often," Cash said.

"It's always nice to have your number called in a moment like that," said Zunino, who hit 33 homers a year ago. This was his second this season.

"Z’s going to  get hot," Cash said. "Maybe this is the start of it right now. It’s a group that knows they’re capable of doing special things in any given inning."

The Rays go for the series sweep today in a 3:37 game in Oakland. Corey Kluber will start for the Rays against Frankie Montas.

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