OAKLAND, Calif. — The Rays just had to be patient Wednesday.
Actually, as manager Kevin Cash pointed out, maybe not so much, as they were shut down and shut out through seven innings by A’s ace Frankie Montas.
“We didn’t have a choice to not be patient,” Cash said. “He was outstanding. Good thing for us is that (Rays starter Corey Kluber) kind of went right with him, kept it right there. Just a really strong pitching performance by both sides.
“And then we got to the bullpen; we had some good things happen.”
That they did, rallying late for the second straight game to beat the A’s, the 3-0 final making for a sweep of the three-game series and improving their record to a season-high five games over .500 at 15-10.
Following Tuesday’s dramatic comeback and extra-inning win with another tight game decided by a late rally has the Rays feeling a lot more confident about themselves.
“The whole pitching staff doing what they’re doing and offense coming up big late, that looks a lot more like what we were used to last year,” reliever Andrew Kittredge said. “Very much felt like the Rays of old.”
Manuel Margot delivered the key hit Wednesday, a two-run single off reliever Zach Jackson with two outs in the eighth.
“(Montas) did a great job, but once we got to the bullpen I think the confidence went up a little bit,” Margot said, via team interpreter Manny Navarro.
Phillips started the rally by drawing a walk off Jackson, a hard-throwing rookie the Rays were seeing for the fourth time in a three-week span. Phillips moved to second on a wild pitch and third on Yandy Diaz’s infield out.
After Wander Franco struck out to cap an 0-for-5 DH day, Arozarena worked a walk and Lowe was hit by a pitch — the call surviving a replay challenge — to load the bases for Margot.
“Wasn’t trying to do too much there in that situation,” Phillips said. “That’s the Rays way. That’s what we do. We let the next guy be the hero. And Manny ‘Mar-go-ahead,’ doing what he does best, put the team ahead.”
Margot — whom Phillips also called “the most underrated player in the league” — did so by lacing a single to right to score two. Domingo Acevedo replaced Jackson and was called for a balk, allowing Lowe to score.
Margot said he was trying to make up for failing to get Arozarena home from third in the sixth.
“I learned from my last at-bat and that helped me be a little more relaxed for that one,” Margot said.
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The Rays were in position to rally because of an extremely effective and efficient start by Kluber, who threw just 64 pitches (46 pitches) over six innings, with J.P. Feyereisen, Colin Poche and Kittredge finishing.
“I think (catcher Mike Zunino) and I did a good job of mixing it up and kind of keeping them from getting into patterns,” Kluber said. “I think their lineup came out probably extra-aggressive (Wednesday), and when the lineup is aggressive and you’re able to execute some pitches, it can present the opportunity to have some quick innings.”
Cash lauded the “awesome performance” and said it wasn’t the right point in the season to have Kluber, 36, go out for the seventh. Kluber said he had no issue and trusts Cash to make the best decisions for the full year.
The Rays have reason to take the long view, as they expect to again be competing for a playoff spot. The first leg of the 10-game, three-city West Coast trip had them feeling better about themselves.
“We’ve got some momentum,” Cash said.
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