Harold Ramirez’s hustle helps Rays edge Giants in series opener

ST. PETERSBURG — Just call him “Hustlin’ Harold” Ramirez from now on. The designated hitter, known for his bat, powered the Rays to a 2-1 win over the Giants on Friday night at Tropicana Field with his feet.

The Rays (8-6) won a series-opening game for the first time this season in front of an announced crowd of 15,146. They also won their first game when scoring two runs or fewer for the first time since June 7, 2023. Jacob Waguespack allowed one unearned run, and for the first time this season the Rays bullpen did not allow a run, putting together five scoreless innings to make Ramirez’s work stand up.

Ramirez scored the go-ahead run from first on Amed Rosario’s double and led the offense with three hits. He also stole his first base of the season.

“Harold, you know he’s a gamer. He got two infield hits. He’s not a guy known for his feet, but he also did a really good job of busting around the bases on Rosie’s double or triple whatever you call it,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said. “So big, big night for him. We needed that.”

Ramirez, who lost weight this offseason and worked on his speed, scored the Rays’ only runs. He singled and scored when Yandy Diaz drew a bases-loaded walk in the second inning.

The second time was a lot harder.

In the third inning, Rosario’s line drive to rightfield had Ramirez flying around the bases and charging toward home as the throw came into third. The throw from right beat Rosario and he was tagged by the Giants’ Matt Chapman, but third base umpire Jeremie Rehak ruled that Chapman blocked Rosario from sliding into third. That obstruction rule is not reviewable, so Rosario was credited with a double and Ramirez’s go-ahead run counted.

“Those legs were good today,” Rosario said with a laugh about Ramirez.

“I didn’t know he was so fast,” Rosario added, speaking via interpreter Manny Navarro.

Ramirez’s nicknames have always revolved around his bat: “Hittin’ Harold” and “Harold the Barrel.” In the winter, as rumors swirled about him being on the trade market, Ramirez worked on his body, shedding weight and speed.

“I’ve been working on it, so you get to see it today,” Ramirez said. “It was very important for me and for the team because with the run, we win this game. So it was very important I get that base.”

The Rays lineup has been hit by injuries, with Brandon Lowe officially going on the injured list before Friday’s game. That put the pressure on Waguespack, who was making his first MLB start since 2019, and the bullpen.

Waguespack had baserunners in every one of his four innings but held the Giants hitless (0-for-6) with runners on base. He allowed one unearned run in the third because of a throwing error and passed ball by catcher Ben Rortvedt. He gave up just four hits, walked two and struck out four. He generated 12 swings and misses.

Waguespack stepped in on three days rest to make the start in place of Tyler Alexander, who is on the bereavement list.

“We knew we were going to be in a little bit of a bind,” Cash said of needing an emergency spot starter, “but for him to get through four innings was huge.”

The bullpen put together five scoreless innings to back him up — but it wasn’t easy. Pete Fairbanks threw six straight balls to start the ninth and the Giants had the tying run at third base.

Cash had Shawn Armstrong warming up in the bullpen just one batter into Fairbanks’ outing.

“We’ve got so much confidence in Pete, but I also want to do everything I can if it’s not happening to be prepared for it,” Cash said. “We were out of (mound) visits. So we didn’t have the ability to buy time ... so it just felt like in that moment, it was probably time to get somebody going.”

Fairbanks coaxed a soft ground ball to first out of Patrick Bailey for the first out. Randy Arozarena made a charging catch on Nick Ahmed’s shallow fly ball to hold the runner on third for the second out, and then the leftfielder caught Jung Hoo Lee’s line drive to end the game and make Ramirez’s go-ahead run stand up.

“They (the bullpen) did a good job tonight,” Ramirez said. “A good comeback from Fairbanks. That’s what we want.”

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