Rays journal: Relentless effort needed to defeat Orioles

Rays catcher Jesus Sucre congratulates Andrew Kittredge after he closes out the victory over the Orioles.[ JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
Rays catcher Jesus Sucre congratulates Andrew Kittredge after he closes out the victory over the Orioles.[ JIM DAMASKE | Times]
Published September 8 2018
Updated September 9 2018

ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays came out swinging again Saturday, combining their hitting with a couple of Orioles being Orioles mistakes to quickly grab a four-run lead.

But that wasn't going to be quite enough on a night when their pitching, particularly Ryan Yarbrough, wasn't as sharp. So they kept adding on until securing what ended up a 10-5 win and led to an adjective to describe their offense most often associated with the Red Sox:

Relentless.

"I think that's a really good word to describe it,'' said 3B Matt Duffy, who had what may have been the key-est hit, a two-run bases loaded single in the seventh that extended the lead to 9-5. "I think lately we've done a really good job of attacking the other teams. Kind of jump on them early for the most part and then we've also been doing a really good job of adding on. Today they kind of crept a little closer and the next half inning we were able to separate again.''

The win was the Rays 15th in their last 18 games (and 10th straight at home) as they improved to a season-best 13 games over .500 at 77-64, but they weren't able to gain any ground in their long-shot chase for the second American League wild-card spot as the A's won again to remain eight games ahead.

"Just impressed overall with the at-bats,'' manager Kevin Cash said. "Seemed like we got big hit after big hit.''

Yarbrough came in after a scoreless first by opener Diego Castillo, but turned what was then a 5-0 lead into 5-3 by the fourth. "Was falling behind guys and trying to get some rhythm but didn't quite get there,'' said Yarbrough, who still was awarded his majors-rookie most 14th win, tying Rolando Arrojo's 1998 team record

RHP Ryne Stanek got him out of the fifth, and LHPs Adam Kolarek and Jose Alvarado also got key outs.

Pham, bam

OF Tommy Pham extended his hitting streak to 12 games (with a .392 average), the longest current such streak in the majors, and one shy of his career high. Even more impressive, manager Kevin Cash said, that he's doing so while playing in pain, with lingering groin and finger/hand issues, and adjusting to the American League pitchers, having come over from St. Louis July 31. What stands out the most to Cash? "How hard he hits the ball,'' Cash said. "Even when he first got here and was scuffling his first 15-20 at-bats he was still hitting the ball hard, having good at-bats, he just didn't have much fortune behind it. Now he's hitting it so hard they can't catch it.''

Helping hands

As part of childhood cancer Awareness month, the Rays held a Cut for a Cure event where for a donation players, staff and fans could get their hair cut or dyed. Manager Kevin Cash said it was a great cause for the team to back. Noting the new look sported by C Jesus Sucre, OF Carlos Gomez, RHPs Ryne Stanek and Jaime Schultz and others, Cash said: "You can see the support that some of the players have by making some poor decisions in dying their hair yellow and blue.'' The Rays also welcomed back 35 children from the Children's Dream Fund and Make-A-Wish groups who were part of the Tuesday's Champion program.

Friendship remembered

The reason rookie C Nick Ciuffo made an X with his arms before crossing the plate Friday following his first home run was a tribute to Xan Bowman, a close friend who died in March 2017, and whose sister and mother were in the Trop stands. Ciuffo had another close friend, Casey Fries, at the game wearing what amounted to a full Rays uniform. "He always said I'm showing up to your first game, full uni, full everything,'' Ciuffo said. "I'm warming up (Blake) Snell and I look over and there he is.''

Not-so-minor matters

Triple-A Durham beat Toledo (Tigers) 3-2 to move on to the International League championship against Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (Yankees). … Double-A Montgomery won 10-7 to force a fifth and decisive game against Jackson (D'backs) in the Southern League north division series. … Class A Bowling Green opened Midwest League best-of-three semifinal round play with a 6-5 win over West Michigan (Tigers). … Short-season Class A Hudson Valley opened play in the NY-Penn League best-of-championship series for the third straight year, losing 3-0 to Tri-City (Astros).

Miscellany

• RHP Ryne Stanek will be the opener Sunday with RHP Yonny Chirinos is expected to cover the bulk of the innings.

• OF Mallex Smith stole his AL-lead tying 30th base, the first Ray with that many since 2012.

• C Michael Perez rejoined the team after staying in Cleveland for the birth of son Liam. He said his strained left hamstring strain continues to improve and he is confident of playing again this season.

• RHP Hunter Wood, who got his first big-league win Tuesday, finally got his "celebratory" beer and other liquids shower Friday: "It was gross.''

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