ARLINGTON, Texas — The Rays won on Wednesday, which of course is what matters most as they beat the Rangers 4-3 in 11 innings.
Ji-Man Choi delivered a one-out double to score Harold Ramirez, who started the inning on second, capping an intense at-bat during which Rays manager Kevin Cash was ejected for objecting to a check-swing call. Matt Wisler pitched a 1-2-3 bottom of the 11th to seal it.
That after Ramirez knocked in the tying run in the eighth with a pinch-hit single and Vidal Brujan delivered a go-ahead run in the 10th with a sacrifice line out to leftfield but Colin Poche couldn’t hold the lead.
The victory was celebrated, especially after losses in the first two games of the series, as the Rays improved to 29-21. But they will only be really happy if it’s a step toward breaking out of what had been an extended and frustrating team-wide offensive slump.
“We have scuffled,” Cash said. “(Texas starter Jon) Gray was really good again, early in the ballgame, even mid-to-late. We couldn’t get anything going. But like the way the guys stayed at it. It’s very easy to get frustrated and kind of get consumed in that frustration and not do anything, But we were able to scratch and claw for two runs. And then you put it in extra innings, and it turns into anybody’s ballgame.”
“Scuffled” might be polite for what the Rays hitters have been going through. Their struggles can be defined in several ways, such as:
• 30 straight batters retired over two games until Brujan singled with two outs in the third
• 17 scoreless innings over three games before Randy Arozarena homered with one out in the seventh
• 15 strikeouts for the night (12 against Jon Gray), a season high
• 18 runs over their last seven games.
The reasons for the struggles also are varied, with hitting coach Chad Mottola saying the combination of injuries (with Wander Franco and Brandon Lowe sidelined), multiple players struggling and top-notch opposing pitching making for “kind of a perfect storm” of trouble.
“We have high expectations. We expect more. There’s no doubt we’re underperforming,” Mottola said. “They’re professional. They take it, they accept it.
“We’re going to continue to work. It’s a new month (Wednesday). And we’re going to approach it that way and know that we’re a playoff team and we expect to do better. It’s no secret. We don’t hide from it.”
The Rays were down early thanks to homers off starter Jeffrey Springs by Sam Huff and former Ray Nathaniel Lowe, who then had some words for Springs.
They got one run in the seventh on Arozarena’s homer, right after Yandy Diaz was thrown out at second trying to stretch a single, the out call surviving a three-minute, 30-second replay review.
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They tied it in the eighth when Cash pinch-hit Ramirez for lefty Kevin Kiermaier to face lefty John King and he delivered a hard single just past drawn-in shortstop Corey Seager to tie it.
“I was happy that Harold hit a ball hard enough, because (King) is a big ground-ball pitcher and Harold can hit his ground balls, but he stayed on that enough to drive it through,” Cash said.
The Rays took the lead in the 10th, when Brett Phillips went to third on a ground out and scored on Brujan’s liner. That didn’t work when Poche allowed a run, so they rallied again in the 11th.
Cash was thrown out — for the second time in 10 games after none in more than a year — by home plate umpire Vic Carapazza for objecting to a check-swing strike on Choi, saying he at least wanted Carapazza to check with the third-base ump.
“It’s a big at-bat right there, it’s a big pitch, a big swing (in) momentum in favor of the pitcher,” he said. “They’re tough calls, there’s no denying that. Just felt like there could have been a look or an ask down to the third base umpire.’'
Choi got to a 2-2 count against Dennis Santana, then laced a double to right, scoring Ramirez, who started on second.
On this night, that was enough.
“All I was thinking (Wednesday) was to win,” Choi said via team interpreter Daniel Park. “When Cash got ejected, that got me a little more motivation. I think it was a very good gesture from him, because him doing that, it shows he really supports the team and me, too.”
The way the Rays were going, they would take it however they could get it.
The last 22 Rays batters on Tuesday made outs, so when the first eight did so in order on Wednesday, it was the equivalent of a perfect game (27 straight)-plus, with 30 straight retired.
That matched the third-longest such streak in Rays history, per Stats LLC. The two longer ones (37 in 2010, 34 in 2012) included actual perfect games (Oakland’s Dallas Braden, Seattle’s Felix Hernandez) and stretched over three contests. Thirty Rays also were retired over two games by the Blue Jays on July 27-28, 2019, which was the last time any team in the majors was as futile.
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