SEATTLE — The Rays talk a lot about their resilience, their confidence in coming back from any deficit, their determination to play hard until the end of every game.
On Friday night, they lived it.
After coming from behind twice only to lose the lead, the Rays rallied a third time and hung on for a wild 8-7 victory over the Mariners that extended their season-high winning streak to five games.
“This team, we never give up,’' Randy Arozarena, who had four hits, said via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “We never quit fighting. We keep on battling all the way through. You never know who’s going to be the next person to come (through). We work hard, and that’s what got us the victory.’'
Manuel Margot delivered the final and biggest hit, a three-run homer in the ninth, that turned a 6-5 deficit into an 8-6 lead. After Ryan Thompson, who allowed a two-run go-ahead homer in the eighth, gave up another to start the bottom of the ninth, Brooks Raley came on to get the final three outs.
The Rays improved to 17-10, winning for the 12th time in 16 games to move a season-best seven games over .500. It’s the fifth time in franchise history they have been seven games over after 27 contests.
The Rays had to be relieved to hang on, given the similarities to last year when they lost all four games in Seattle, with the Mariners coming from behind each time.
“We feel like we’re a good team,’' manager Kevin Cash said. “You’d like to win those tight ball games, and we’ve lost our share of one-run ballgames here in the past. So hopefully it’s evening out for us.’'
Margot was somewhat of an unlikely star, given that he entered the game in the eighth as a defensive replacement in left for Harold Ramirez, who made his first outfield start when Arozarena asked to move to DH due to left knee soreness.
Batting after Arozarena singled with one out and Brandon Lowe did the same, Margot delivered off Paul Sewald with a blast to left-center. It was the second time in three days that he knocked in the go-ahead run in the eighth inning or later, the third time this season, and the eighth in his career.
“I feel like Manny’s gotten a lot of big hits since he’s been a Ray,’’ Cash said. “But he has strung them together here as of late quite a bit. Wasn’t in the lineup, put him in basically for defense to preserve, get our best outfield defense out there with one run. And lo and behold, we get fortunate that he comes up to the plate with guys on.’'
Margot, who teammates Kevin Kiermaier and Brett Phillips have been calling “Manny Mar-go-ahead,’' said it’s just a matter of knowing to always be ready, comparing it to his days with the Padres under the old National League rules.
“With a team like this, you don’t know when you’re going to play,’' he said. “If you don’t start, you’re going to be ready to go at any given point inside the game. You’ve got to be ready and prepare accordingly.’'
Want more than just the box score?
Subscribe to our free Rays Report newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Arozarena also had a productive day for a guy who supposedly had a sore knee, playing a key part in each of the four Rays rallies — including another mad dash home.
“He looks healthy,’' Cash cracked. “Might have lied to me before the game.’'
Down 2-0 early, the Rays scored three in the second off Seattle starter Logan Gilbert, the Stetson University product who had allowed three runs total (two earned) in his first five starts. After a one-out Taylor Walls walk and a single by Francisco Mejia — his first game since April 20 due to a bout with COVID-19 — they got three straight two-out RBI singles from Yandy Diaz, Wander Franco and Arozarena.
The Mariners retook the lead in the fourth, with two runs off Josh Fleming, who again was not overly sharp.
The Rays tied it in the fifth on an odd play thanks to Arozarena’s hustle.
First he raced out of the batter’s box and slid in hard for a one-out double. After Lowe walked, Arozarena went to third on a soft grounder that third baseman Eugenio Suarez picked up but lost the grip on and bounced the throw near the mound, the ball rolling toward second. Arozarena broke for the plate and slid headfirst to beat the throw from second baseman Adam Frazier.
“That was a wild play,’' Cash said.
Arozarena said it was just a matter of being opportunistic.
“I think it was good baserunning on my part,’' he said. “I always try to stay focused and stay concentrated at any given moment. I knew I had to run hard when I saw that infield hit, and when I saw all the crazy stuff happen, I thought I’d take advantage of it.’'
The Rays took the lead back in the seventh when they loaded the bases and Harold Ramirez’s groundout got Wander Franco home. The Mariners tied it when Thompson — who ended up getting the win — allowed an infield single in the eighth, then a two-run pinch-hit homer to Jerred Kelenic to make it 6-5 Seattle. And then Margot did what Margot does.
The win was more significant of how the Rays pitchers couldn’t hold earlier leads.
“Our bullpen has just been lights-out for us,’’ Cash said, “and (Friday) it was good to see the offense kind of pick them up a little bit, with Seattle kind of clawing back like we’ve known that they do.’’
• • •
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.