For the Rays, it was a powerful statement — literally.
Facing a three-run deficit — and the offense in mid-game dormancy — the Rays used a pair of home runs to rally past the Oakland A’s 4-3 on Sunday afternoon and put a punctuation mark on a successful West Coast road trip.
“Home runs can make a lot of questions go away,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
Trailing 3-0 in the fifth inning, with A’s left-hander Cole Irvin largely sailing unscathed, the Rays got a tying three-run homer from eighth-place hitter Willy Adames.
In the sixth, Irvin was one strike from an escape. But Mike Brosseau, batting .122 in his past 17 games, picked on a 1-2 slider and delivered a solo homer for the lead the Rays wouldn’t lose.
Rays left-hander Shane McClanahan mostly pitched well in his four innings, giving up three runs after two outs in the fourth, but the bigger story was the bullpen. Four Rays relievers shut down the A’s over the final five innings. Jeffrey Springs (3-1) got the win with a perfect fifth inning.
“Outstanding effort from our bullpen,” Cash said. “Everybody who came in had to be spot on and lights out. And they really were.
“We left home wanting to play better baseball and we did. We found ways to win in Anaheim (with a four-game sweep of the Angels). We competed well (at Oakland). We got the big hits that were huge and we should be feeling good on the trip home.”
The Rays’ 5-2 road trip was highlighted by the long ball. They hit nine homers over the seven games, accounting for 16 of the 34 runs, including all four runs on Sunday.
“It’s big for us,” Adames said. “We’re not a team that’s going to hit a lot of homers. Whenever it happens, we have to embrace it and enjoy it and continue to do it. It’s contagious.
“I’m happy I got the opportunity to hit the ball and luckily it went out.”
Until the fifth inning, not much had gone right for the Rays’ offense. After Randy Arozarena’s single on the game’s first pitch, Irvin sent down 12 consecutive batters.
Things didn’t look promising for Brosseau, the fifth inning’s leadoff batter, when he hit a sky-high popup in the home-plate area. A’s catcher Sean Murphy, shielding his eyes from the sun, struggled to track it. So did Brosseau.
“The way it unfolded, I looked up and lost in the sun the same as Sean,” Brosseau said. “By the time it started coming back down, I refound the ball and it started to drift back into fair territory. That’s when chaos erupted.”
It glanced off Murphy’s glove in fair territory, then bounced back into foul ground behind the plate. Brosseau, a passive observer until then, hustled down to first base but thought his lack of awareness might be costly.
“By then, it was too late for me to get to second (base),” Brosseau said. “That’s on me for not running hard out of the box.”
Ultimately, it didn’t matter. Joey Wendle doubled to right — the line shot skipped past a backhand attempt at first base by Matt Olson — and the Rays had two runners in scoring position. After a pop-out by Mike Zunino, Adames changed the game’s momentum with his opposite-field homer that just cleared the rightfield fence.
“Irvin had us off-balance,” Cash sad. “That was a big hit by Willy.”
Irvin went back to work in the sixth, getting two quick outs. But Brosseau timed up Irvin’s 1-2 slider and produced a go-ahead homer.
“We know that if we put some runs on the board, our pitching staff will put us in a good situation,” Brosseau said. “To get those runs across, it was a good feeling.”
From there, the Rays’ bullpen did the heavy lifting. There was a tense sequence in Oakland’s eighth inning. Pete Fairbanks issued a one-out walk to Olson, then Cash turned to Andrew Kittredge. Matt Chapman’s single put runners on first and second, bringing up Seth Brown, who had homered in each of the series’ first two games.
Kittredge’s 0-1 pitch to Brown got away from Zunino — but not far enough away. After initially retreating, Olson broke for third. But Zunino scrambled to gather the errant pitch, then fired to Wendle at third, nabbing the runner and ending the inning.
“Not the way we draw it up, but we’ll take it,” Cash said. “It seems like every little thing matters (in games against the A’s).”
The Rays did the little things. They also did the big things. Together, it made for a powerful statement — and a happy flight home.
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