SEATTLE — Eric Sogard came over in a July 28 trade from Toronto saying he just hoped to contribute to the Rays’ playoff push.
That has been pretty apparent, with Sunday the latest example as Sogard’s fourth-inning homer was the only run in the 1-0 victory over the Mariners.
“It’s a fun group of guys to play with, to go battle with every day,’’ Sogard said. “Certainly enjoying myself and able to contribute. Happy to be a part of it.’’
The second baseman has reached base in all 10 games he has played for the Rays (and 13 before that for a career-best 23-game streak, longest currently in the majors). He’s hitting .379 with three homers and seven RBIs.
“Geez, he’s some type of locked in, huh?’ catcher Mike Zunino said. “It’s fun to watch.’’
The homer was the 13th of Sogard’s unexpected breakout season at age 33, a power surge he attributes to opportunity and the remaking of his swing after 2016 knee surgery. He hit 11 homers total over his first eight seasons in the majors.
A case for the defense
Ryan Yarbrough’s dominant pitching performance and Sogard’s home run were the headlines from the game, but the Rays made some defensive plays worthy of highlights. Zunino threw out speedy Dee Gordon trying to steal second. Shortstop Willy Adames made a great backhand pickup deep in the hole and strong off-balance throw on a grounder by also speedy ex-Ray Mallex Smith, who was originally ruled safe but the call was overturned. Guillermo Heredia made a running catch at the centerfield wall to save extra bases. “Absolutely incredible,’’ Sogard said. “You’re going to need those plays to put up a shutout.’’
2020 vision: Rays open at home vs. Pirates, visit Cubs
The 2020 schedule is slated to be released today, and based on a recent draft, the Rays will open at home March 26 against the NL Pirates; make interleague visits to the Brewers (May 19-20), Reds (July 31-Aug. 2), Marlins (Aug. 4-5) and Cubs (Sept. 4-6); and host other interleague games versus the Marlins (May 30-31), Brewers (June 30-July 1) and Cardinals (July 10-12). They finish the season in Boston on Sept. 27.
Still classy, San Diego?
The Rays make their first visit to San Diego today since June 15-17, 2004 — the first season in Petco Park — and second in their 22-year franchise history. The then-Devil Rays, under manager Lou Piniella, swept the series, extending to eight a winning streak that grew to a still-franchise-record 12. … The Rays got quite a welcome a few hours before that series opener as a magnitude 5.2 earthquake shook the stadium and team hotel, causing some worry but no damage. … Only two members of the Rays’ traveling party from that trip will be on this one, video coordinator Chris Fernandez and travel director Chris Westmoreland, who was equipment manager then. (TV broadcaster Dewayne Staats was on the 2004 trip but is skipping this one, as Kevin Burkhardt completes his fill-in duties.)
About Saturday night
Zunino made his return to Seattle a good one, hitting a three-run homer that led the Rays to a 5-4 win. Kevin Kiermaier and Avasail Garcia also homered, Charlie Morton delivered a good-enough six innings for his 13th win and the bullpen trio of Colin Poche, Nick Anderson and Emilio Pagan finished, effectively and efficiently.
Medical matters: Pham, Snell, Alvarado
Outfielder Tommy Pham returned to the lineup after resting his sore right hand Saturday but went 0-for-4. He’s now 5-for-30 since spraining it on a July 28 slide. Cash said “it’s something he’s going to have to manage,” potentially through the end of the season, and may at times need extra days off, but they don’t plan to put him on the injured list. … Starter Blake Snell is slated to play catch today for the first time since July 29 surgery to remove six bone chips from his elbow. Cash said there’s no timetable for his return, but they expect him back in September, though not necessarily stretched out to starter length. … Reliever Jose Alvarado (oblique) threw three pitches to get an out for Triple-A Durham on Sunday in his fifth rehab outing.
• The Rays swept a series in Seattle for the first time since 2010 and third time in their 22-season history. … It was the Rays’ third sweep in their past four series, also blanking the Red Sox and Marlins.
• Diego Castillo is tonight’s opener with Austin Pruitt set to cover bulk innings, though with a rested bullpen and playing under NL rules, the Rays are likely to be aggressive in changing pitchers.
• The Rays have won seven straight road games, their longest such streak since a team-record-tying eight in 2014. Their 38-22 road record is best in the majors.