Sunday, April 22, 2018
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays beat Mariners to end 10-game skid

ST. PETERSBURG — All the Rays needed to end their worst losing streak in almost five years was a toy horse, a new pair of glasses and, perhaps most surprisingly, Jose Molina's bat.

The Rays' light-hitting catcher knocked in his first run since September to spark his team's first win this month with Friday night's 4-0 victory over the Mariners. The win busted a 10-game losing streak that was tied for the majors' longest this season.

The Rays (24-38) started with a familiar spell of struggling offense. They loaded the bases for Molina in the second, but the .140 hitter popped out on the first pitch — his 100th consecutive at-bat without an RBI.

The third inning was more of the same. Matt Joyce smoked a hard grounder to first with the bases loaded. The ball bounced out of Justin Smoak's glove, but he recovered to stroll to the bag and end the threat.

Molina turned boos from some of the 14,577 spectators at Tropicana Field into cheers in the fourth.

Speedy rookie Kevin Kiermaier stretched a base hit into a double to lead off and advanced to third on a wild pitch.

Molina then knocked an 0-and-1 pitch to left to score Kiermaier. The sacrifice fly marked Molina's first RBI since Sept. 23 against Baltimore.

The Rays added another run in the fifth on a play beloved by baseball icon Don Zimmer, who died Wednesday at age 83.

The late Rays senior adviser favored bunting with runners on first third, which Desmond Jennings did for a single to score Evan Longoria.

That was enough for starter Erik Bedard, who allowed only five base runners and struck out eight in six innings. His only hiccup came in the third, when he gave up back-to-back hits to put runners at second and third with no outs. But he struck out the side to escape.

Jake McGee struck out the side in the seventh, atoning for the two runs he allowed in Thursday's loss and securing the Rays' club-record sixth consecutive game with at least 10 strikeouts.

Before coming up with their best all-around game in weeks, the Rays were willing to resort to gimmicks to turn around baseball's worst record and the worst 61-game start of manager Joe Maddon's tenure.

Players rode a stick pony through the dugout Thursday after scoring and brought it back from the stable of outfielder David DeJesus' locker for Friday's game.

Maddon, struggling through what he said was the most challenging stretch of his career, broke out a new pair of two-tone brown Kaenon frames, fresh from his contact in Newport Beach, Calif.

"I thought it was a great day to try a different pair of glasses," Maddon said before the game.

Thanks to a child's toy and Molina's jolt of offense, Maddon could finally like the results he saw.

 
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