DUNEDIN — The Rays already had blown a five-run lead Monday afternoon. Then they let a two-run advantage in the 10th get away. Their 10-game win streak was in peril. And rush hour traffic was looming for the drive home.
But, once again, they weren’t done.
Adding to an early-season narrative of resiliency and resolve, the Rays came roaring back, scoring seven runs in the 11th inning to beat the Jays 14-8.
“It’s a good team, man,” manager Kevin Cash said. “They’re doing really, really well. They’re going to continue to compete.”
They extended their win streak to 11 games — one shy of the 2004 franchise record that they can tie Tuesday — and improved their record to an American League-best 30-19, moving past the Red Sox and into the division lead.
“Bigger picture, look at our season as a whole and we didn’t really start out playing hot, the way that we wanted to,” infielder Joey Wendle said. “(We’re) continuing now through this 11-game streak to just win games pretty much every way you possibly can.”
The Rays are used to the Blue Jays playing them tough, as their last 12 games had been decided by one or two runs. Gusty winds added another element to the challenge, as did limited availability from their taxed bullpen.
When the Rays took a 5-0 lead in the first inning, on a bases-loaded walk by rookie Taylor Walls and a grand slam by Wendle, they didn’t figure that was going to be all the scoring.
Ryan Yarbrough, getting a start despite his better numbers working behind an opener, battled to get the Rays through six innings with the lead. But he did allow three home runs, a pedestrian shot to Lourdes Gurriel Jr. in the second, then back-to-back blasts by Vlad Guerrero Jr. (461 feet at 117 mph) and Teoscar Hernandez (457, 108) in the fourth.
The Jays eventually pulled even in the eighth, Rowdy Tellez tripling off Collin McHugh and Guerrero greeting reliever Ryan Thompson by lacing a 2-2 slider a meager 384 feet over the centerfield fence.
Going to extra innings for the second time in four days, the Rays got two in the 10th, on an Austin Meadows double and a Manuel Margot single. But they couldn’t close it out, with lefty Jeffrey Springs, working a second inning, allowing a one-out, two-run homer to Marcus Semien.
But they rallied again in the 11th, loading the bases when Walls walked and Wendle blooped a single. Mejia, who had big hits Friday and Sunday, came through again, lacing a two-run single. Walls got a great break to score. Then they got five more, on a Randy Arozarena double, a Meadows ground out, a Margot triple and a Mike Brosseau double.
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“When we support each other, we can do anything,” Mejia said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “We motivate each other.”
Jays manager Charlie Montoyo, a former Rays coach, was impressed. “We were playing a hot team,” he said. “Now they’re swinging the bats. They’ve got the pitching and defense, too. They’re one of the best teams in our division, one of the best teams in baseball. We were right there with them. We were in every ballgame.”
The game wrapped up the four-game series, in which the Rays were the visitors but had the support of their home area fans. It also ended the Jays’ temporary stay in their spring training home, as they are shuffling off to Buffalo, N.Y., for the rest of the regular season.
That made for a different kind of winning getaway day for the Rays.
“Certainty unique, but it’s nice,” Cash said. “(Hitting coach Chad Mottola) always says ‘Happy flight.’ A lot of guys were saying let’s find a way to have a ‘Happy drive.’ And they’ll have a happy drive back to St. Pete today.”
The longest win streaks in Rays history:
June 9-22, 2004: 12 wins under Lou Piniella
May 13, 2021-present: 11 wins under Kevin Cash
July 12-26, 2014: 9 wins under Joe Maddon
Notable: The Rays won eight straight five times, last in August 2018 under Cash.
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