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Rays 4, Padres 2

The SportsXchange

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- Right-hander Roberto Hernandez threw six strong innings and the Tampa Bay Rays rallied for two runs in the sixth for a 4-2 come-from-behind win over the San Diego Padres on Sunday at Tropicana Field.

Tampa Bay (19-8) has won a season-high five straight games and is above .500 for the first time since April 6. The Padres (16-21) had won four straight before getting swept in the three-game series despite leading in each game.

The Rays regained the lead for good in the bottom of the sixth. Trailing by a run, Evan Longoria led off with a double. He moved to third on a flyout to right field by first baseman James Loney and then scored on a single to center by Sean Rodriguez to tie it. After Rodriguez advanced to second on a wild pitch, Yunel Escobar delivered the go-ahead RBI double to right, putting the Rays up 3-2.

Both starters had pitched pretty well, with Hernandez getting the win after allowing two runs in six innings. Padres left-hander Eric Stults held Tampa Bay to two hits through five innings but was chased in the sixth, giving up three runs and five hits overall.

Loney added an important insurance run with a home run in the eighth, his second homer in as many days and third of the season.

And while the first two games of the series included late-inning comebacks, the Tampa Bay bullpen shut it down, with Jake McGee, Joel Peralta and Fernando Rodney combining for the final nine outs.

The game featured impressive defense on both sides, including Rays right fielder Matt Joyce making an over-the-shoulder catch on the warning track with one out in the ninth to rob Chris Denorfia of extra bases.

Right-hander Roberto Hernandez, coming off his best start as a Ray, looked good in the early going, allowing two runs in the first five innings as the Padres took a 2-1 lead.

He was given a huge hand in the first inning by center fielder Sam Fuld, who made a spectacular leaping catch at the top of the wall in right center, robbing Padres right fielder Will Venable of extra bases.

The Rays got on the board first with a run in the second. Stults issued two walks and gave up a single to load the bases with one out. Catcher Jose Molina knocked in a run with a sacrifice fly to make it 1-0.

Tampa Bay could have scored more had Padres first baseman Yonder Alonso not made a nice reaching grab on a liner by Fuld to end the inning.

The Padres bounced back to take the lead with a run each in the fourth and fifth.

In the fourth, Hernandez gave up a walk and two singles, with Alonso knocking in a run, before he got out of the inning by starting a 1-4-3 double play.

With one out in the fifth, Padres second baseman Alexi Amarista hit a solo homer to right center, putting San Diego up 2-1. Hernandez got in a jam again, allowing a single and walk, but shortstop Yunel Escobar -- playing behind second base on a shift -- made a great diving stop to his left before throwing out Chase Headley to end the inning.

The Rays squandered a golden opportunity to tie the score in the bottom of the fifth, stranding Fuld at third after he led off with a triple. Padres left fielder Jesus Guzman made a sliding catch on a Kelly Johnson liner, with Fuld unable to tag up. Ben Zobrist hit into an inning-ending double play to thwart the threat.

NOTES: Rays center fielder Desmond Jennings (sore groin) did not start for the third straight game but hopes after Monday's off day to return to the lineup on Tuesday against the Red Sox. ... Longoria served as designated hitter, giving the third baseman another day off his feet. ... Many players from each team wore pink arm sleeves or wrist bands, and swung pink bats, as part of MLB's Mothers' Day breast cancer awareness initiative.
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