Rays walk away with a win over the Mets

ST. PETERSBURG — Austin Shenton did not have time to think about it.

With the Rays’ rally slowly developing in the eighth inning Saturday night, manager Kevin Cash told the rookie left-handed hitter to get ready to go in for veteran hitter Harold Ramirez. Two batters later, Shenton found himself pinch-hitting with two outs and the bases loaded in a tie game.

“I was just trying to trust my preparation and just go in and put together a good (at-bat),” Shenton said. “Obviously, there’s a prospect of winning the game and whatnot. But in that situation just going back to what I do well, which is just taking good at-bats.”

Shenton had a really good at-bat.

Facing Mets veteran right-hander Adam Ottavino, he worked a nine-pitch walk to force in the go-ahead run as the Rays beat New York 3-1 in front of a loud crowd of 18,968.

The win was the second straight for the Rays (16-18) and clinched a series for the first time since taking two from the Giants in a three-game series back on April 12-14. The Mets (16-17) dropped below .500 for the first time since April 15.

It was also the 755th win for Cash as the Rays manager, moving him past Joe Maddon for the most all-time victories in franchise history.

“This was a big win for our team,” Cash said. “The way it’s been going, to create a little momentum is big. We’ve had two nights of great crowds, we’re playing a good New York Mets team and won a great game (Friday).

“To come out and win this playing a clean baseball game. The pitching was outstanding, Zack Littell and their young pitcher — that was impressive what he did. So, we’re happy to get the win.”

Christian Scott, making his major-league debut for the Mets, was ambushed early, but the Rays could not rattle him. After giving up three straight hits, including an RBI single to Isaac Paredes to start the game, Scott worked himself out of trouble and then retired 12 straight Rays batters. He allowed the one run on five hits. He walked one and struck out six over 6 2/3 innings.

“I didn’t think we had bad at-bats, I think that kid just had really good stuff,” Cash said of the Coconut Creek native who also played for the University of Florida.

The Rays went 2-for-8 with runners in scoring position and twice left the go-ahead run on third base.

But against Ottavino, who had issued just two walks this season coming in, Yandy Diaz lined a one-out single to start the unusual rally. Richie Palacios walked and then Paredes reached on a slow roller back to the mound. Ottavino and first baseman Pete Alonso both went for the ball, leaving first base unattended.

Francisco Lindor made a tremendous back-handed grab on Randy Arozarena’s chopper and then fired it for the force out at home to save a run.

So with two outs in a clutch situation, Cash turned to the 26-year-old Shenton.

“It is a big moment. I’m glad he came through,” Cash said. “I mean, what an at-bat. I mean, you are talking about Adam Ottavino who’s been in as big of moments as any relief pitcher in baseball.

“Just had confidence that he’s going to go up and give a good at-bat, and he did. He laid off some tough pitches, he fouled off some tough pitches. And then when it gets to 3-2, anything can happen, but really happy for Austin and impressed with the overall inning that we played.”

Jose Caballero, who had walked twice this season coming into the game, drew another bases-loaded walk from Sean Reid-Foley to give the Rays an insurance run.

That little offense was too late for Littell, who had dueled with Scott in a 1-1 tie through six innings. He did not factor in the decision after throwing six solid innings. He allowed one run, in the first, on six hits. He struck out seven with a career-high 18 swings-and-misses and also extended his run of not giving up a walk to 27 straight innings.

Littell may not have gotten a win, but there was satisfaction in seeing the Rays string together back-to-back wins for the first time since winning three in a row April 9-12.

“Any type of streak right now, it’s pretty good just to get going,” Littell said. “(Friday) night, obviously the offense came out and put up 10 runs, which is really fun to watch, and then tonight to win in a different way, kind of grinding from the bats out against a really good pitcher, it’s good.”

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