ST. PETERSBURG — Three straight defeats — with the offense slumbering — had prompted some question marks for the Rays. Thursday afternoon, they answered back with an exclamation point.
Rays 14, Yankees 0.
It was an emphatic statement before a matinee audience of 14,134 at Tropicana Field, a football score that sent Tampa Bay fans home happy, an aggressive assault on Yankees ace Gerrit Cole and a lights-out performance by Rays rookie right-hander Luis Patino.
It officially turned ridiculous in the sixth, when the Rays scored 10 runs on eight hits (three of them home runs) against three different pitchers. The Rays had 11 straight batters reach base and sent 15 men to the plate during a half-inning that could be made into a documentary.
“That was a pretty good inning,” Rays manager Kevin Cash said.
“I’ve never seen that personally — 11 straight guys reaching base — in my career,” said Rays designated hitter Austin Meadows (3-for-5), who had two homers and five RBIs. “It was incredible … laughable … in a good way for us to do that. It shows how good we are when guys are hot.”
“Innings like that — and games like that — are few and far between,” said Rays rightfielder Brett Phillips, who had his first grand slam. “When you put together an inning like that, the amount of energy is unmatched.”
But according to Cash, the sixth inning’s sound and fury wasn’t the story.
This game was decided early — in the first inning.
Clearly, Patino (2-2) had his best stuff. He threw six shutout innings with eight strikeouts and just two walks.
Just as clearly, it wasn’t a good day for Cole (10-6), who surrendered eight runs (seven earned) in 5-1/3 innings. The Rays inflicted early misery by taking a 4-0 lead just four batters into the first inning, getting an RBI single from Yandy Diaz, then a three-run homer from Meadows.
Cole then shifted into another rhythm, retiring 16 of the next 17 Rays batters (collecting 10 strikeouts), before he was buried under the sixth inning’s weight. By then, though, Patino’s dominance had taken hold.
“That (first) inning and Patino, that was the game,’’ Cash said. “We know how talented Cole is. But Luis was going toe-to-toe with him.
“Phenomenal is a good word (for Patino). The poise he showed in making big pitch after big pitch, the strike-throwing, the commitment to the zone with his fastball and slider, I felt like he was on attack mode the entire time. You’re not going to see many better outings than that.”
Patino said he was “about 12 or 13 years old” when he started watching Cole.
“It was an honor to face him and pitch against him,” Patino said through Rays translator Manny Navarro. “I wanted to just go out and compete. I felt pretty good right from the get-go. It was a marvelous day for me … a beautiful outing.”
It came at the perfect time.
The Rays avoided their first home sweep since 2019. After scoring just six runs in three straight defeats, the offense turned it around in a huge way, especially in the sixth, when Phillips, Ji-Man Choi and Meadows all homered.
Now there’s momentum for the Rays (61-42), who open a three-game series Friday at the Trop against the American League East-leading Red Sox. The Rays are 1½ games behind the Sox, who were routed at Fenway Park by the Blue Jays 13-1 Thursday night.
“It’s all about momentum and energy in August and September,” Phillips said. “We’ve got to continue to grind and buckle down. But I like the way things look (Thursday).”
“The first two games against the Yankees got by us, so to win (Thursday), not only to win but beat them by a large margin, was especially huge for us,” Meadows said.
Now, the homestand gets ratcheted up.
Up after the Red Sox are the Mariners, who are chasing the Rays in the AL wild-card race.
“It does feel good to win,” Cash said. “We just had a lot of balls that were barreled up. Everybody played a part. It was a big offensive day, and it was good to see.”
• • •
Sign up for the Rays Report weekly newsletter to get fresh perspectives on the Tampa Bay Rays and the rest of the majors from sports columnist John Romano.