ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays needed something, anything, to break what they felt was a spell of bad things happening to a good team during a losing streak that spanned seven games and eight days.
The All-American Rejects and Fall Out Boy tunes that reliever Pete Fairbanks said some of the players cranked in the clubhouse Wednesday afternoon weren’t necessarily going to be enough.
But they played some bigger hits later, and ended their longest losing streak in more than three years with an 8-2 win over the Red Sox.
“We needed it,” manager Kevin Cash said. “Certainly starting to feel it. We’re a good team that’s gone through a rough stretch, and we wanted to get out of it as quick as possible. We’d like to do it a little quicker next time, but we’ll certainly take this.”
There was a lot to be pleased with as the Rays improved to 44-31 and moved back within a half game of the American League East-leading Sox.
Early two-run homers by Austin Meadows and Mike Zunino. A three-run insurance shot late from Brandon Lowe. A solid five-inning start from Rich Hill, followed by the usual sturdy relief work.
Meadows said that Fairbanks’ musical preferences aside, a key was remaining positive, that the clubhouse was loose and “with the guys hanging out, you wouldn’t know that we would be on a losing streak.”
Hill said they also did a good job of maintaining perspective during the skid, when they lost five games in their opponents’ final at-bat, by maintaining consistency in a not too low or too high approach.
“Not making a six-game kind of skid into something that could have turned into more by having panic,” Hill said. “There was no panic. ... The guys are playing with a relentless ease when they go out there. I think the key word is relentlessness. And they continue to keep going and pushing forward.”
After the Sox got a run in an odd first, the Rays quickly started doing some things right before an announced 9,088 at Tropicana Field.
Wander Franco, in his second big-league game, drew a two-out walk. Three pitches and two pickoff attempts later, Meadows laced a homer — his team-leading 16th — to right-centerfield off Sox starter Garrett Richards.
They added on in the second, as Zunino homered to left, his major-league catcher leading 15th. After Lowe doubled, Franco bounced a ball that second baseman Kike Hernandez fielded but then threw errantly, allowing Lowe to score.
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Lowe then broke the game open in the seventh with a three-run shot off ex-Ray Matt Andriese. It was his fifth homer in his last 16 games and 16th overall.
“They were all good swings and impactful to us winning the game,” Cash said.
Hill, who had allowed four runs in each of his past two outings, got a bit more creative, altering his delivery, timing and pitch sequencing, and it worked. He allowed just the first-inning run and three hits while striking out five, though he also walked five (his most in three years) and needed 97 pitches to get the 15 outs.
Then they turned to the bullpen quartet of Andrew Kittredge, Jeffrey Springs, Ryan Thompson and Diego Castillo, whose hat was taken out of play by the umps due to “discoloration” but not a sticky substance.
Then they got to celebrate.
“It’s a relief that we shook hands after the game; we haven’t done it for a week,” Cash said. “That hasn’t happened very often, but good thing for us that we kind of built enough cred to get our record where we wanted to and were able to withstand this tough stretch a little bit. But it is refreshing to come out with a win.”
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