ST. PETERSBURG — Facing Tigers left-handed starter Matthew Boyd on Sunday, Rays manager Kevin Cash turned to mostly right-handed hitters in his lineup.
Cash inserted Travis d’Arnaud at first, Jesus Aguilar at DH, Mike Brosseau at second and Guillermo Heredia in centerfield. Leftfielder Tommy Pham started the game batting leadoff for the first time this season, moving from his usual No. 2 spot. He now has 42 career starts batting leadoff, 22 coming last season.
“It’s not my first time batting leadoff,” Pham said. “I’m pretty experienced in that area.”
Pham, entering Sunday, had a .451 on-base percentage against lefties this season. He sparked the offense immediately with a single in the first inning, eventually scoring on a d’Arnaud sacrifice fly. Pham reached base again in the third, drawing a walk.
Boyd struck out Pham in the fifth, but Pham raised his on-base percentage against lefties to .457 after reaching twice against the Tigers starter. Pham later slugged a two-run homer against right-hander Buck Farmer in the eighth.
Pham has two home runs and four RBIs over his past four games, attributing the success to better medical care for a right-hand injury he incurred July 28 in Toronto. After initially injuring the hand, Pham went 5-for-30 with no home runs to start August.
“Now that we have a better understanding of what’s going on with my hand, we have a better protocol of what to do before the game as far as treatment,” he said.
Walk it off
The Rays have five walkoff victories this season. They rallied for back-to-back walkoff wins Saturday (1-0 in 13 innings) and Sunday (5-4), their first consecutive walkoff victories since three in a row May 22-24, 2014.
“Good teams find a way to win, and that’s exactly what we did,” Pham said.
In their past five games at the Trop, the Rays have three walkoff wins, including two in extra innings.
“You can’t do it too many times,” Cash said. “At some point we need to get a lead for our pitchers a little bit and let them work with a little bit of room to wiggle out of.”
Glasnow makes strides
Right-hander Tyler Glasnow will throw a fastball-only bullpen session on Monday, his first since June 18. On the injured list since May 11 with a right forearm strain, Glasnow threw 10 pitches off the mound Saturday, delivering to a catcher positioned in front of home plate.
“He feels pretty free and confident to let it go,” Cash said. “It’ll be good to hear how his bullpen session goes.”
Glasnow will have to build his endurance back up before a potential return to the starting rotation. Cash said that expanded rosters in September will give the team the chance to experiment with the pitching staff.
“We can probably get creative with some of those different roles where guys (have) three- to four-inning roles,” Cash said. “We’ll just have to see and go by how (Glasnow) continues to progress.”
• Rays pitchers set a three-game series team record with 49 strikeouts, which included 12 Sunday. The Astros hold the MLB record with 52, against the Orioles on May 24-26, 2016.
• Infielders Brandon Lowe and Joey Wendle continued their rehab assignments with advanced Class-A Charlotte on Sunday. Wendle started at second and went 1-for-4. Lowe was the DH and went 1-for-3 with a double. He was also hit by a pitch.
• Top prospect Wander Franco collected two hits for Charlotte, extending his hitting streak to eight games.