Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Tampa Bay Rays

Rays edge Yankees, get back to .500 to open key series (w/video)

ST. PETERSBURG — The new-age arms in the bullpen, the pair of radar gun-busting rookies? That didn't work too well Friday against the Yankees.

But the old hand at third base? The guy who was mired in a slump? The Rays rode him to a 5-4 victory in front of 21,146 at Tropicana Field.

Evan Longoria was 4-for-4, including the single in the eighth inning that scored catcher Derek Norris from second base with the winning run. It was Longoria's first four-hit game of the season — the seventh of his career — and it snapped an 0-for-12 skid.

"I felt like I was due," Longoria said. "I always feel like I'm due when I'm struggling."

The Rays evened their season record at 22-22, the first time they've been at .500 since May 6. It was also their fifth win in their past seven games.

That it came against the AL East-leading Yankees (24-15) made it a little sweeter.

"We need a win in the division," Longoria said. "We're looking up at these guys. That was a good one to take right there."

Longoria's eighth-inning hit stole the momentum from the Yankees, who tied the score in the top of the inning on a two-run blast by Matt Holliday off rookie Ryne Stanek.

How the Rays got to that point was interesting.

A two-out, two-run, pinch-hit double by Rickie Weeks, his first hit this season in 15 plate appearances with runners in scoring position, capped a three-run seventh and gave the Rays a 4-2 lead. It was also his first hit as a pinch-hitter after striking out in each of his six previous opportunities.

Manager Kevin Cash then turned the game over to his hard-throwing rookies for the eighth.

First out of the bullpen was lefty Jose Alvarado, who walked leadoff hitter Brett Gardner before getting Jacoby Ellsbury to pop up a 3-and-1 pitch to short.

Alvarado was hitting 99 mph on the stadium radar gun.

With righty Holliday due up, Cash called on Stanek, who made his major-league debut Sunday in Boston.

With the count at 2-and-2, Holliday drove a 100-mph fastball into the rightfield seats.

"They are learning as they go," Cash said of Alvarado and Stanek. "That's on me for putting them out there, but that's where we're at."

Cash was impressed with how Alvarado got Ellsbury to pop up after walking the leadoff batter.

As for Stanek, "Ryne Stanek is going to be fine," Cash said. "I know his outings haven't been the cleanest yet, but it's kind of the luxury of the style of games that we play. We don't have many separated games to get guy's feet wet, so he's been in some high-leverage situations in his first three appearances, but he's going to be a better pitcher and learn from some of those experiences."

Longoria agreed.

"We have some young guys in the bullpen that are going to be asked to do some things in some situations that they haven't been put in and probably don't expect to be put in at times, there are some great arms down there," Longoria said. "I was really happy with what Cash did tonight, putting those guys in there.

"The Stanek thing, it happens. But he throws the ball hard. Those guys really throw the ball hard, and I think if we can get them going we have some really special arms down there."

Erasmo Ramirez made his second start of the season, his first since replacing Blake Snell in the rotation. He gave the Rays a season-high 51/3 innings. His 65 pitches were one shy of the season high he threw against the Tigers in five innings on April 20 while filling in for an injured Jake Odorizzi.

He allowed a run in the first on a groundout by Starlin Castro with runners at second and third and another in the third inning on a double by Ellsbury.

The winning rally began when Norris drew a one-out walk from Tyler Clippard. One out later, Norris was on second base after a walk to Kevin Kiermaier.

Longoria, who Cash said benefited from Thursday's off day, then lined a sharp single to leftfielder Gardner.

Rays third-base coach Charlie Montoyo didn't hesitate sending Norris.

"Kudos to Dino for scoring on that, and a great send by Charlie," Longoria said. "I hit it hard. I was hoping that he would just send him and see what happened, make (Gardner) make a good throw. Make them make a play. I'm happy, obviously, with the way it turned out. I hit it hard and hit it right at him. I felt pretty good at the plate today. There are moments when you go up there and you feel great and it doesn't happen. Tonight it happened."

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