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Rays flex some more muscle, beat Marlins 8-6

Two homers from Eric Sogard, then solo shots by Austin Meadows and Willy Adames pay off.
Eric Sogard and the Rays had plenty to celebrate early against the Marlins on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, at Tropicana Field. [CHRIS O'MEARA   |   Associated Press]
Eric Sogard and the Rays had plenty to celebrate early against the Marlins on Saturday, Aug. 3, 2019, at Tropicana Field. [CHRIS O'MEARA | Associated Press]
Published Aug. 4, 2019|Updated Aug. 4, 2019

ST. PETERSBURG — Perspective is a funny thing.

A week-and-a-half-ago, the Rays were doing bad and looking worse — dropping seven of eight and out of the AL playoff picture, raising questions if they would be better off selling at the trade deadline and focusing on the future.

Now, they’re going good and trending better.

Saturday’s 8-6 win over the Marlins was their seventh in their past eight games, securing the hold they regained on the second AL wild card, a half-game ahead of Oakland.

And it put them, at 64-48, in position with another win Sunday to match their season high of 17 games over .500. Plus, Saturday opened a stretch of 21 straight games against teams with losing records, including four in last place, which should bode well.

The offense, a big part of the Rays’ struggles, has come alive. They extended to six games their streaks of scoring six or more runs (tying the team record) and hitting multiple homers (one shy).

Newcomer Eric Sogard showed his #NerdPower, hitting two homers in his Trop debut as a Ray. Austin Meadows hit one to tie the score in the seventh, and Willy Adames added another to put them ahead to stay in the eighth.

Even the bullpen is getting back in some semblance of order, bolstered by the addition of Nick Anderson (small sample size), who teamed with Emilio Pagan to record the six final outs before an announced 14,092 at Tropicana Field.

“Good win’’ manager Kevin Cash said. “Exciting win. A lot of back and forth. We probably didn’t do our best stuff on the mound, but we certainly came up with some big hits. Eric Sogard, what a day he had. Willy, the big home run. A lot of add-on runs that we needed. We’ll take it, for sure.”

After some sloppy defense and shaky pitching, mostly from Jalen Beeks and a bit by Chaz Roe in his second inning, the Rays were on the wrong side of a 6-5 score.

Meadows got them even with a homer to open the seventh, going deep for the third straight game and team-most 18th time this season.

Then Adames, who had a couple of odd plays at shortstop early in the game, delivered leading off the eighth to put them ahead, with Travis d’Arnaud delivering an insurance run.

“We got the win, that’s the most important thing,’’ Adames said. “I was just trying to get a good swing and put the ball in the gap, trying to get an extra base (hit) to make it easier for the boys.’’

Seeing it go out was even better.

“It’s special, man,’’ he said. “My dad (Romulo) is in town, he got to see it. And hopefully that starts me going at the Trop, because it’s been rough here.’’

That’s for sure. In one of those stats no one can explain, Adames is hitting .296 with 12 homers on the road, but he came in Saturday hitting .171 with one homer at the Trop.

Inconsistency has been an issue for Adames. He looked to be in danger of losing playing time when the Rays got Sogard from Toronto last Sunday allowing Joey Wendle to slide over to short more often, but Wendle hurt his wrist.

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The Rays like what they see lately.

“He’s a young player, got a chance to be a very special player,’’ Cash said. “We’ve talked about that many times now. It was really encouraging what he did on the road trip, and now that he’s carried it over after the day off with the big hit was nice.

“Willy’s defense — I mean he’s played Gold Glove-caliber shortstop for us this year. He’s really made some strong improvements from early on, even from last year. I know today quirky plays came into play, but we feel really good when the ball’s hit to him.’’

Sogard was the story early, hitting a two-run homer in his first at-bat and a three-run shot the next time. That gave him a career-most five RBIs in a game and his first multihomer game.

“Didn’t feel anything different,’’ Sogard said. “I think it was good to be here and felt like home for the first time, rather than being on the away side. Got some good pitches to hit and I was able to put the barrel on them.”

Sogard now has 12 homers for the season, one more (in 338 plate appearances) than in his first eight big-league seasons total (1,743 plate appearances).

Sogard said the power surge stems from the 2016 surgery on his left knee, which allowed him to transform his swing to get more power, which he has obviously refined further.

As for the #NerdPower?

Sogard got the nickname, affectionately, in 2013 from Oakland fans who appreciated his scrappy playing style for the A’s and rather obvious hard-framed eyewear.

“I remember walking out to a game and they had a new sign out there in rightfield with a pair of glasses and #NerdPower,’’ he said. “It took me a little while to embrace it, I’m not going to lie. But it’s kind of followed me through my career, and it’s been something cool for sure.’’

Right now, it’s all working, again, for the Rays.

Contact Marc Topkin at mtopkin@tampabay.com. Follow @TBTimes_Rays.


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