Cruz went 4-for-4 with a home run and three doubles, and the Devil Rays won consecutive games for the first time this season with a 5-3 victory over the Cleveland Indians on Friday night.
“It’s a first for me, I’ve never had a night like this before,” said Cruz, who found the game ball and lineup card on the chair in front of his locker.
Relievers Trever Miller, Lance Carter and Danys Baez combined for six scoreless innings for the Devil Rays, who needed 40 games to record back-to-back victories. They’re the 11th team to go this deep into the season without two straight wins.
“We could never imagine it would be like this,” Cruz said. “We can’t change the past. Hopefully this will get us on a roll.”
The 1907 Washington Senators and 1926 St. Louis Browns also needed 40 games. The all-time mark is 60 games, set by 1895 Louisville Colonels.
Miller (1-1) allowed one hit and struck out three after replacing starter Paul Abbott in the fourth. Carter retired his first four batters before walking Travis Hafner with one out in the eighth. Baez pitched the final 1 2-3 innings for his sixth save.
“If we win eight or nine, we can feel sporty about it,” Miller said.
C.C. Sabathia (2-2) allowed four runs and nine hits in seven innings in his first loss to the Devil Rays after winning his first five starts against them. Sabathia threw seven shutout innings in last Sunday’s 10-0 win over Tampa Bay.
“They pretty much hit everything,” Sabathia said. “They were swinging the bats well today.”
With the game tied 3-3, the Devil Rays went ahead when Cruz kicked the ball out of catcher Victor Martinez’s glove as he tried to score on Toby Hall’s fly ball to right. Martinez was charged with an error on the play.
Cruz, who drove in two runs and scored three times, doubled in his first three at-bats before hitting a solo homer in the eighth.
“Jose Cruz, what a night,” Miller said. “That was fun to watch. It’s good to see these guys starting to get the confidence back and have some fun when they come to the ballpark. For a long time there it wasn’t much fun for anybody.”
Cruz entered with just 12 hits in his past 93 at-bats. But he did go 2-for-4 Thursday in a 9-6 win over Boston for his first multihit game since May 3.
“We tried to go soft, we tried to go hard. He just had a good night,” Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said of Cruz.
Tampa Bay took an early lead against Sabathia, scoring twice in the first. Rocco Baldelli hit an RBI single and Cruz added a run-scoring double to make it 2-0.
Baldelli has driven in three runs in the past two games. He had only two in the previous 11.
Blake had just three RBIs in his previous 12 games.
Tampa Bay tied it at 3 on Julio Lugo’s RBI double in the fourth.
Abbott gave up three runs, five hits, three walks and hit a batter in three innings. He threw 79 pitches. Abbott is winless in his last five starts, and has allowed 27 runs—24 earned—34 hits and 15 walks in 21 2-3 innings overthe stretch.
Devil Rays manager Lou Piniella said Abbott is physically fine, but struggled with his control. He also said the right-hander will remain in the rotation. … Cleveland’s Jody Gerut made his first start of the season in center. … Tampa Bay 3B/DH Aubrey Huff started at first base for the first time this season. … Cleveland is 6-13 on the road. … Tampa Bay OF Midre Cummings accepted an assignment to Triple-A Durham. He had been designated forassignment Tuesday.