ST. PETERSBURG — RF Steven Souza Jr. provided a spark Sunday with a pair of big moments — a two-run homer in the sixth inning off RHP Corey Kluber that tied the score at 3; and a strong throw to the plate in the seventh to nail 1B Carlos Santana and keep the score tied.
The Rays did lose 4-3, but the reason the Indians needed LF Austin Jackson's solo homer in the eighth off RHP Tommy Hunter to win it had a lot to do with Souza.
"He's a stud," Hunter said of Souza. "He's been playing well all year."
Souza's home run was his 25th of the season. All have been off right-handers, making him the first player since 1961 to open the season with that many homers exclusively off righties.
"You've got a Cy Young pitcher on the mound. He kind of fell into a groove," Souza said. "I knew he wasn't going to make it easy on me."
Souza homered off a slider with the count full.
"You never try to do too much with a guy like that, and it tied it up," Souza said.
Hunter had held teams scoreless in 19 of his past 20 outings when he entered Sunday's game in the seventh inning with runners on first and second. He gave up the hit to Indians SS Francisco Lindor that needed a strong throw from Souza to prevent the go-ahead run from scoring.
He then gave up a home run to LF Austin Jackson in the eighth that proved to be the difference.
"He pulled his hands in," Hunter said of Jackson's swing. "That (pitch) was 96-97 (mph) off the plate and he clipped it. I'm probably going to throw that pitch a couple of hundred more times, and the result will be far from that happening."
Hunter has allowed two runs in his past 211/3 innings, a span that dates back to June 21.
Quote of the day I
"Maybe it's a good thing we're getting out of here for four days and heading to Toronto."
Kevin Cash, Rays manager
Quote of the day II
"Good riddance to the Indians and their pitchers. We're sick of seeing them."
RHP Alex Cobb (turf toe) will not return from the 10-day disabled list Wednesday as he had hoped. He said the pain in his right big toe has lingered longer than expected. … RHP Matt Andriese (right hip stress reaction) pitched into the fourth inning Sunday for Class A Charlotte against Bradenton in the first start of his minor-league rehab assignment. He allowed four hits and two runs while throwing 51 pitches, 35 for strikes. … CF Kevin Kiermaier (right hip fracture) was 1-for-5 with an RBI triple as the DH for the Stone Crabs during the second game after resuming his rehab. Kiermaier is off today and will likely join the Crabs on Tuesday in Jupiter.
The Rays optioned LHP Jose Alvarado to Triple-A Durham after the game. A corresponding move will be announced before tonight's game at Toronto.
. RHP Brad Boxberger struck out all four batters he faced Sunday.
. Rays RHP Austin Pruitt allowed three runs, the most he has allowed in his past three starts.
. Indians DH Edwin Encarnacion's 25 homers against the Rays are his third most against any opponent.
. The Rays are 2-3 in Toronto this season and 6-6 against the Blue Jays overall.