Rays find a way to stop skid, hang on to beat Brewers

MILWAUKEE — Jason Adam was racing from the mound to the plate, his heart rate spiking, hoping there would be a play. Rene Pinto, shaking off the pain of being hit in the helmet, was equally frenzied, searching for the ball.

Things have been going badly for the Rays, and it appeared, for a moment anyway, they were about to throw away another lead, and maybe a game, during this wild ninth-inning sequence.

But both players relaxed as home plate umpire Ryan Additon signaled the ball was dead as a result of Milwaukee’s Jake Bauers hitting Pinto with his bat on the backswing, and that Sal Frelick had to go back to third.

And a few minutes later, after Adam hit a batter to load the bases before striking out the next for the final out, they celebrated a tense, and much-needed, 1-0 victory.

“That,” Adam said, “was a big win for the team.”

The ninth-inning drama capped a night in which the Rays continued their offensive struggles, scoring on a double-play grounder in the first, but got another strong start from Ryan Pepiot and just enough relief from their reshuffled bullpen.

“That’s what we do when we’re playing good ball,” Adam said. “We win blowouts, and we win close games. And so I think I’m hopeful and optimistic that it’s a sign of things to come from this team. It’s a great team, and I think we’re still in a fine spot.”

That’s a subject of debate, as they are 14-16. But, coming off a three-game sweep by a White Sox team that entered the weekend with a majors-worst three wins, the Rays would take anything good.

“Any win,” manager Kevin Cash said.

Cash repeatedly has mentioned the need for the Rays’ hitters to work better at-bats and find ways to put more pressure on opposing pitchers.

They came out Monday and did just that against Brewers starter Bryse Wilson, loading the bases when Yandy Diaz was hit by a pitch, and Richie Palacios and Randy Arozarena drew back-to-back walks.

But they didn’t do much more, getting just one run when Isaac Paredes grounded into a double play, with Austin Shenton then striking out. They managed just six singles and were thrown out on the bases four times.

But Pepiot, plus relievers Shawn Armstrong, Kevin Kelly and, eventually, Adam, saved the day, combining on a three-hitter.

Pepiot was dominant, allowing two hits over six innings and retiring 14 straight between William Contreras’ first-inning single and Joey Ortiz’s sixth-inning double. That was contested as the umpires originally called it foul and then changed it to fair, and the Rays then questioned, unsuccessfully, the placement of the runner.

“He has been outstanding,” Cash said. “Continues to be outstanding. Incredibly efficient through five innings, then they built the pitch count up a little bit with some good at-bats (in the sixth). But that was pretty dominant stuff.”

Pepiot struck out seven, averaged 95.3 mph with his fastball (up nearly 1 mph from his season average) and got 11 swing-and-misses with his 87 pitches.

He attributed the powerful showing to feeling good, enough so that he peeked a couple of times at the radar-gun readings, and having a solid game plan with catcher Ben Rortvedt.

He also acknowledged the 20-or-so relatives from his native Indiana and Butler University buddies sitting six-eight rows behind the Rays dugout.

“I can hear them and see them,” Pepiot said. “Whenever there’s a strikeout, I can hear them.”

With Chris Devenski joining Pete Fairbanks and Colin Poche on the injured list, the Rays used Armstrong and Kelly to get to the ninth. Then it was time for Adam and the eventful final inning.

Frelick started the rally with a leadoff double. After Contreras lined out hard, Willy Adames, the former Ray, walked. Both runners moved up on a double steal,with Pinto not making a throw.

As Bauers, another ex-Ray, swung and missed at strike three and the ball got by Pinto, it initially appeared the Brewers would score the tying run. But when Additon saw the bat had hit Pinto and called interference, they didn’t.

“At that point, you have to enforce the backswing interference,” crew chief Chris Guccione told a pool reporter. “So in this case, it was a third strike to Bauers and all runners go back to the original base at the time of the pitch. That’s the rule.”

Brewers manager Pat Murphy argued vehemently and was ejected. The Rays waited somewhat patiently, Adam joking the delay allowed his heartbeat to recover and for him to think about the next batter.

“It was a crazy play,” Pinto said.

Adam wasn’t quite done with the drama, hitting Rhys Hoskins with a pitch to load the bases (though correctly pointing out that run was irrelevant), but then striking out Blake Perkins to end it.

“Yeah,” Adam said, “that’s how we draw it up.”

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