OAKLAND, Calif. — Over the course of the Rays’ recent struggles, one thing that’s been missing is the big inning.
As a group, Tampa Bay hasn’t been able to string together hits to take control of games.
In salvaging a series split here in Oakland on Sunday, the Rays offense recorded a five-run fourth — an inning that included seven straight hits — that followed a three-run third in their 8-2 win.
The Rays’ 15 hits were just one shy of their season high. The eight runs were their most in nine games after averaging just 2.8 runs over their previous eight games.
“(Was there) relief?” manager Kevin Cash said of his team stringing together hit after hit in the fourth. “There was relief by me, I’ll promise you that. ... Very encouraging. It was kind of one of those feel-good games for everybody because everyone kind of played their role.”
The Rays (45-33) ended a stretch of 21 games in 20 days and went into their only off day in a 34-day stretch with some much-needed good vibes as they boarded a plane to Minneapolis, the final stop of a grueling three-city, 10-game, 11-day road trip that’s tested them in many ways.
The Rays entered the afternoon having lost nine of their last 12 and were 9-13 in June. They are 2-5 on the road trip with three to go.
Austin Meadows and Travis d’Arnaud drove in three runs a piece. Eight of the Rays’ nine starters recorded hits, five of them logging multiple-hit games. Avisail Garcia and Joey Wendle had three hits each.
On Tuesday, Cash allowed bulk reliever Ryan Yarbrough to go through the Yankees order just one time in his last appearance, but on Sunday he granted Yarbrough the opportunity to work deeper into the game with a lead.
And Yarbrough delivered, allowing one run on five hits over six innings. For his second straight appearance, Yarbrough relied on his cutter and changeup to keep hitters off balance.
D’Arnaud started the scoring for the Rays in the third inning, taking a first-pitch delivery from A’s starter Brett Anderson over the centerfield fence for a two-run homer. Avisail Garcia’s two-out RBI double gave the Rays a 3-1 lead.
“A 162-game season, you’re going to go through ups and downs,” d’Arnaud said. “I’ve noticed with this team that regardless of whether we’re winning or losing, everyone fights until the end. To have that inning early was really nice, but we knew we had to add on more and fortunately we did.”
Yarbrough provided a shutdown inning, retiring the A’s in order on nine pitches in the bottom of the third, a frame that Cash called “the massive part of the game.”
“When you get a big inning like that,” Yarbrough said, “you really just want to get your team back in as quickly as possible and kind of keep some momentum going, so that was all I was thinking about, really trying to attack guys and stay aggressive. It kind of panned out and you could see the production we had afterward.”
They then sent nine batters to the plate in the fourth, an inning that began with seven consecutive hits.
D’Arnaud’s RBI single — the fourth of the seven straight hits — gave the Rays a 5-1 lead and chased Anderson from the game. Meadows hit a three-run double two batters later.
“We needed a win,” Cash said. “Offense, good to see the offense get rolling. ... Glad to see the guys have some success at the plate.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieInTheYard.