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Rays run win streak to nine by beating Blue Jays again

A rally in the eighth inning sparked by Randy Arozarena and Manuel Margot leads to second-longest run in team history.
Rays starting pitcher Shane McClanahan throws against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning on Saturday in Dunedin.
Rays starting pitcher Shane McClanahan throws against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning on Saturday in Dunedin. [ MIKE CARLSON | Associated Press ]
Published May 23
Updated May 23

DUNEDIN — Nine-game win streaks don’t happen very often.

Certainly not for the Rays, who beat the Blue Jays 3-1 on Saturday night to get there for just the third time in their 24-season history.

They won nine in July of an otherwise disappointing 2014 season, which ended with 85 losses and a change in management. And they won a team-record 12 in June 2004 on their way to a 70-win breakthrough season as the highlight of Lou Piniella’s three-year tenure.

These Rays, who improved to 28-19 and stayed a game behind Boston for the best record in the American League, have obviously grander goals. And see the way they are playing now as a culmination of what they can do.

“Everybody on the team, every department, the defense, the pitching, and the offense coming to life, all that has come together at the right time,” manager Kevin Cash said. “And it’s allowed us to play really, really good baseball.”

The resurgence of the offense sparked the streak, as the Rays scored 72 runs over the first eight games — including seven or more in six straight — and hit 21 homers.

The Rays' Mike Zunino scores on a solo home run against the Toronto Blue Jays during the fifth inning.
The Rays' Mike Zunino scores on a solo home run against the Toronto Blue Jays during the fifth inning. [ MIKE CARLSON | Associated Press ]

They hit one homer Saturday — Mike Zunino’s 11th overall and sixth in his past 11 games — as the victory was more in their standard style.

Shane McClanahan gave them a solid five-inning start, lifted after 67 pitches as Cash didn’t want him to go through the Jays lineup a third time.

Solid work from four relievers, with J.P. Feyereisen making his debut, Andrew Kittredge getting the win, and Pete Fairbanks and Diego Castillo navigating the tense final two innings.

They played good defense. Got a couple clutch hits. And did some little things right.

They took a 2-1 lead in the eighth in part because Yandy Diaz had the alertness to spoil a pitch out by fouling off the ball when Randy Arozarena had taken off from first on a hit and run. And they got the run because Arozarena made a great read on a pitch in the dirt to move from second to third, then scored on Manuel Margot’s single.

Margot, who pumped his fist as he ran to first, claimed he did the easy part. He said Diaz did “a tremendous job; I can’t emphasize that more how tremendous of a job he’s been doing over the last few weeks.” And he said, via team interpreter Manny Navarro, that Arozarena’s dash to third “was a game changer. It’s much easier to hit with a guy on third base than it is on second base.”

The Rays' Manuel Margot celebrates after singling in a run during the eighth inning.
The Rays' Manuel Margot celebrates after singling in a run during the eighth inning. [ MIKE CARLSON | Associated Press ]
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Then they added on a run in the ninth when shortstop Taylor Walls, who had an overall impressive big-league debut with two doubles, similarly took third on a pitch in the dirt, then raced home on Jays catcher Danny Jansen’s errant throw.

“Yandy picked me up for sure; we had a hit and run on and (he) did spoil the pitch,” Cash said. “Then Randy and Taylor, the advance on the dirt ball getting away from Jansen was huge. That put us in line to score runs. Little things, tight games like that, it matters. It becomes magnified when it’s really close. And us moving an extra 90 feet helped us win.”

The Rays, who have two more games as the visitors but fan favorites at TD Ballpark, are hoping to keep the streak going as long as they can. More importantly, to keep playing the way they feel they can.

“I think all aspects of our game are trending in the right direction,” Zunino said. “Obviously our at-bats have gotten better. I think the way we’ve thrown the ball, for the most part has kept us in games and, obviously, that’s the biggest thing. And we’re doing a great job defensively. The pitching and the defense are what we pride ourselves on. When you see those aspects start to click, start to go in the right direction, that’s when you see us go on some runs.”

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