TORONTO — Coming off arguably their most crushing loss of the season the night before, the Rays found themselves in a pretty bad place midway through Sunday afternoon.
Their first six hitters had struck out, the most futile start to a game in franchise history. They didn’t get a man on base until the fourth inning, extending their staggering streak of consecutive batters retired from Saturday to 30 straight. The good start they were banking on from Yonny Chirinos instead was his career worst.
By the end of the fifth inning, the Rays trailed the Blue Jays by seven runs, the exact same margin they led by on Saturday before their latest bullpen blowup.
“They weren’t the most positive thoughts,’’ manager Kevin Cash admitted. “It’s easy to say, “Let’s get on the flight, get to the off day and start over again.’ ‘’
But not these Rays.
Not this time anyway.
In a dramatic and historic flipping of the script, the Rays instead came all the way back, responding to one of their most discouraging losses with a most inspiring win, rallying to beat the Jays 10-9.
“It was really encouraging,’’ Cash said. “Give the guys a lot of credit for bouncing back. Obviously tough loss (Saturday) night, we said that, and they showed the ability to get down and come back. It says a lot about this team and how they compete.’’
The win was just the Rays’ fourth in their last 12 games, 10th in 22 and 19th in 43 as they improved to 60-48 and moved to within percentage points of tying the Red Sox and A’s for the second AL wild-card spot as they head to Boston for a head-to-head showdown starting Tuesday.
It also came amid a busy day as the Rays made three trades, a convenient deal to bring in infielder/outfielder Eric Sogard, who was sitting in the Blue Jays dugout, while sending infielder Christian Arroyo and reliever Hunter Wood to the Indians to clear roster space and DFA’d-reliever Ian Gibaut to the Rangers.
But, understandably, what they were most happy about Sunday was the comeback win. And for many reasons, including history, as, per Stats LLC, it was the first time since at least 1920 the same teams were on opposite sides of seven or more run comebacks on consecutive days. It also matched the second largest deficit the Rays have overcome to win, twice coming back from eight down.
“It was equally as big as the loss was,’’ said infielder Joey Wendle, who knocked in the deciding run. “As discouraging as that loss was, this will get us right back on track.’’
So how did they do it?
According to shortstop Willy Adames, who hit the game-tying homer in the eighth, it started in the morning with they strolled into the clubhouse.
“We came with energy today,’’ he said. “Everybody showed up with energy and the mentality to win the game.’’
If that waned as they fell behind, centerfielder Guillermo Heredia – “the energy guy,’’ Adames said - made sure to keep everyone in the dugout focused.
“I like to be loud,’’ Heredia said, via team translator Manny Navarro. “I like to be unexpected. To kind of surprise these guys. Just keep them aware and get them woken up.’’
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Even trailing 8-1 after five, Adames insisted they weren’t down.
They got their first shot of confidence with three runs in the sixth. Travis d’Arnaud, of course, had the big hit, a two-out two-run double, that finally chased Aaron Sanchez, who looked much better than a pitcher who was winless since April and had 14 losses on the season. A Matt Duffy single got them to within 8-4.
The Jays added a run off just-called-up reliever Jake Faria, but the Rays gained one in the seventh as Ji-Man Choi hit a two-run homer, his first in more than a month, to make it 9-6.
“Even though we could give up a lot of runs in the beginning, we all have the mentality where we don’t give up,’’ Choi said, via translator Ha-Ram (Sam) Jeong. “We just keep on playing the best we can every inning, and just bring runs to the team hopefully to win the game.’’
Cash said the biggest momentum shift came next, as Heredia hit a two-run homer in the eighth to get them within one. “At that point we needed something,’’ Heredia said. “It was big. It brought the energy out.’’
Adames certainly felt it, as he launched the next David Phelps pitch for the game tying homer. With reliever Chaz Roe handling the Jays in the eighth, the Rays took the lead in the ninth. Walks by Austin Meadows and Duffy around a Nate Lowe singled loaded the bases, and Wendle’s slow bouncer to second was enough to get Meadows home. “Anything,’’ Wendle said, “to get the run in.’’ Oliver Drake got the first out of the ninth then Cash, still playing the matchups game, switched to Diego Castillo, who, with no drama, got the final two.
Saturday sting vanquished.
“That means a lot for us,’’ Adames said.
Contact Marc Topkin at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_Rays