OAKLAND, Calif. — Blake Snell made another mess on the mound Tuesday, but his Rays mates cleaned it up by rallying late for a dramatic 4-3 win over the A's.
Down to their final out, the Rays rallied against A's closer Santiago Casilla, starting with a single by Wilson Ramos. Pinch-runner Mallex Smith went to second on a wild pitch, then swiped third. After Brad Miller walked, Adeiny Hechavarria delivered a single to tie it. Shane Peterson followed with a single scoring Miller with the go-ahead run.
"(You) always get on me for saying, "What a win" after a win, well that's quite a "What a win,' '' manager Kevin Cash said. "Can't say enough about the guys and how impressive that ninth inning was. ...
"I think this team has spoke loud and clear how they feel about one another and how capable we are of winning games. And to do that in this situation is pretty special.''
The ninth-inning dramatics would not have been possible if not for the earlier work of Erasmo Ramirez, who came in after Snell lasted only four innings and zipped through three perfect innings of relief.
"That was the game,'' Cash said. "Erasmo Ramirez is as big a part as any why we won the game.''
The win improved the Rays to 51-44, a season-high seven games over .500, maintaining a 1 ½ game lead over the Yankees for the top American League wild-card spot and keeping them within two games of the East-leading Red Sox.
Until the ninth-inning rally, the story was how Snell failed the Rays again.
For all this talk going into the start about he knew what he had to change to be successful and, even more so, that it was time to stop talking about it and start showing it, he didn't deliver on any of it, pitching himself out of the game with 85 pitches in four innings, walking three.
"Unacceptable,'' Snell said. "Got to keep getting better. It's just frustrating.''
Snell got off to a rough start, allowing a leadoff single and a two-run homer in the first, looked pretty good in the second and third, and then made another mess in the fourth, walking the first two and bouncing a slider five feet in front of the plate to score a third Oaklandrun.
"I thought Blake struggled with obviously his command, I thought he struggled with maybe his pitch distribution and decision making,'' Cash said.
Snell remains winless through 11 starts in the majors this season – with a six-week exile to Triple-A in the middle – and continues to pitch himself out of games. Tuesday was the ninth time this season, and third straight since his return from Durham, he failed to go more than five innings, and the 19th time in his 30 career outings.
His inefficiency is somewhat historic. No other American League pitcher had 19 of their first 30 starts last five or fewer innings going back to at least 1913 (when baseball-reference.com data is available. Nor has any AL pitcher made his first 30 starts without going seven innings at least once.
But the ninth-inning rally made for a happy ending, Alex Colome converting for his AL-leading 28th save.
Ramos, back in the lineup after missing three games with hamstring tightness, got them starting by waiting for Casilla to throw a strike and hitting it hard.
"To me the game's not over until the 27th out,'' Ramos said. "And I don't like to be the 27th out.''
Smith pinch-ran and, as Cash said, "creates the havoc that he does,'' moving up on a wild pitch and then stealing third.
After Miller walked, Hechavarria slapped the first pitch to right, scoring Smith, with Miller hustling to third.
Peterson then delivered another high quality at-bat, working the count full and singling hard to right to score the go-ahead run, then later getting congratulated by his teammates.
"Really no other way to describe it other than to say it's an awesome feeling,'' Peterson said.
Until then, the Rays didn't do much to help, managing just two runs – and three hits – in seven innings off A's journeyman starter Chris Smith. The last time Smith pitched against the Rays was in 2008, when he was with the Red Sox and one of the players on the field with him was Cash.
The Rays got a run in the second, when Logan Morrison walked, showed his hustle, if not his heart, in going to third on an error, and scored on a Miller sac fly. They got another much simpler in the third, when Steven Souza Jr. led off with his 20th homer, a missile clocked with an exit velocity of 113.2 mph, the highest for a homer by a Rays player since Statcast was introduced in 2015.
Cash was ejected in the fifth after objecting to a called third strike on Souza, saying only that he and home-plate umpire Bill Welke "disagreed on the strike zone early on.'' That was the second straight day a Ray was tossed, following Tim Beckham's ejection Monday for a similar complaint.
The Rays wrap up the series, and the west coast road trip, with a Wednesday matinee, rookie Jake Faria facing Oakland ace Sonny Gray.
They'll have a hard time topping Tuesday's excitement.
"It's all about fighting until the 27th out,'' Ramirez said. "That's what happened today. We fight all the way to the end, and we got rewarded.''
As Cash would say, what a win.