Sunday, June 17, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays beat Blue Jays

ST. PETERSBURG — Saturday's game-deciding move was complicated, even for manager Joe Maddon.

The Rays' bench was short, with Desmond Jennings and Ryan Hanigan available only in emergencies, and the score was tied in the sixth.

That was when Maddon pinch-hit one of his team's hottest sluggers for a rookie who hadn't played in more than a week.

"You have to make some close calls in different moments," Maddon said.

This one worked out, with Cole Figueroa drawing a bases-loaded walk to spark a six-run inning that fueled the Rays' 10-3 win over the Blue Jays at Tropicana Field.

With their 10th win in 14 games and Boston's loss, the Rays (43-53) climbed back out of a one-day stay at the bottom of the AL East.

The Rays used another strong outing by Jake Odorizzi to get into the sixth with the score tied at 2 before leading off with two walks and a single.

That set up the managerial chess match.

Though Sean Rodriguez hit a tying three-run home run the day before and had 12 RBIs in his previous 14 games, he was 0-for-2 with a strikeout Saturday. He hadn't drawn a walk all season against righties like Lakeland native Drew Hutchison, so Maddon replaced him with left-handed hitter Figueroa — one of the two fully available players on his bench.

It was Figueroa's first appearance since July 3 and his third since being recalled from Triple-A Durham on June 24.

"It's all about how you perceive it," Figueroa said. "You can let it get to you and be like, well, I have no chance and haven't seen pitching in a while. Or you can just accept your role and be confident. …"

Figueroa chose the latter.

Simply trying to make contact, Figueroa watched a 2-and-2 sinker and fouled off four pitches. The final throw of the nine-pitch at-bat was a fastball below the strike zone for the second RBI of his major-league career and his first since his pinch-hit, walkoff double that beat Boston on May 23.

"Tremendous at-bat," Maddon said. "Didn't flinch."

After that, neither did the Rays.

Kevin Kiermaier had one of his three hits, slapping a two-run single to left that deflated the Jays, and Ben Zobrist and Matt Joyce followed with singles.

"You could see them kind of put their heads down a little bit," Figueroa said of Toronto.

By the time the 55-pitch inning was over, the Rays led 8-2 and were on track for their fifth game of at least 10 runs this season.

After two consecutive ninth-inning collapses, the Rays' bullpen did its job, too. Joel Peralta struck out Melky Cabrera with two on after Toronto had scored once in the seventh, ending one of Toronto's last threats.

Erik Bedard allowed two hits in a scoreless ninth inning in his first appearance since Jeremy Hellickson took his spot in the rotation last week.

Contact Matt Baker at [email protected] Follow @MBakerTBTimes.

   
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