ST. PETERSBURG — Being candid, the Rays would prefer to do things the easy way.
“Obviously, we would rather put up 10 In the first and then kind of coast to the end,” centerfielder Luke Raley said. “But it’s not how baseball works, and definitely not here.”
And certainly not now, as the Rays instead have been making things difficult. And dramatic. But also rewarding, as Thursday they rallied late for the third straight game to beat the Rockies 5-3 and complete a series sweep.
After letting a 2-0 lead get away in the fifth, the Rays tied the game in the sixth on Isaac Paredes’ team-leading 26th home run. They then rallied in the eighth for the winning margin, Randy Arozarena reaching on an infield single and Josh Lowe delivering a massive two-run homer.
“That,” Lowe said, ‘’was a really good win for us (Thursday).”
It came after they scored nine runs in the eighth inning Tuesday to turn a 4-3 deficit into a 12-4 win, then rallied for two in the ninth to tie Wednesday’s game before walking it off in the 10th, 6-5.
“It’s been unbelievable to watch,” said reliever Jason Adam, who made a rare two-inning outing for the win. “You go in tied or down in the seventh, eighth or ninth, and we know those guys are going to get the job done and win the ballgame. I would not want to face our team in the seventh, eighth or ninth.”
Rallying late in three straight games provides a boost of confidence, as the Rays improved to 78-51 in winning for the ninth time in their past 12 games and 16th in 24 after starting the day two games behind the American League East-leading Orioles. They host the last-place Yankees over the weekend.
Winning like that this late in the season makes it even more rewarding.
“It’s a great time of year to be doing that,” Adam said. “This is the time we want to be peaking. We want to be peaking into September and October. Obviously, we know we had a not-great stretch for a bit (5-15 to start July), but that’s baseball, the ups and downs. So we want to try to replicate nights like this as often as we can.”
“I think it’s just something we can build on going forward,” Lowe said. “We’re going to need wins like this in the postseason. We need to get this kind of practice in. This is a good time to do it when the games really count down the stretch. I think it’s going to be huge for us going down the road.”
Determined to get through August with a four-man rotation, the Rays had a planned bullpen day. Shawn Armstrong threw the first two innings, Jake Diekman got four outs, Erasmo Ramirez worked through the sixth (allowing a three-run, go-ahead homer to Nolan Jones), Adam worked his two, and Pete Fairbanks finished.
The Rays looked like they were going to make it somewhat easy as they grabbed an early 2-0 lead.
Raley, hitting .156 over his previous 14 games, led off the second with a homer, his 18th. In the fourth, Raley laced a drive off the left-centerfield fence and hustled his way to third. Then, Osleivis Basabe, the impressive rookie shortstop filling in for Wander Franco, delivered again, singling through the infield.
“It’s been a little bit of a grind for (Raley) lately, but he’s done so many good things for us this year, I was happy to see him get a hold of that one early in the ballgame,” manager Kevin Cash said. “And then just credit the player, the way he gets out of the box. A lot of players are not going to be at third base in that situation. He didn’t assume anybody was going to catch the ball and busted all the way for the triple, and then Basabe comes up.”
After Ramirez let the Rockies get ahead, Paredes got the Rays even in the sixth with a solo homer, his second in two days, increasing his team-leading RBI total to 80. “What a season he’s putting together,” Cash said.
With Adam striking out five of the six he faced, the Rays had a chance to go ahead in the eighth, albeit with two outs. With Arozarena on first, Lowe fouled off a 1-0 cutter from Matt Koch, then got another and crushed it 452 feet, with an exit velocity of 111.2 mph, to provide another dramatic come-from-behind victory.
“I‘d rather just win without coming back. Just get the lead in the first and keep it the whole way,” Cash said. “But you take wins however you can get them.”
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