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Rays keep swinging hot bats, beat Blue Jays again

The previously anemic offense cranked out 24 runs and rapped 41 hits in winning three straight.
The Rays' Harold Ramirez runs the bases after hitting a two-run home run, also scoring Wander Franco, in the fifth inning Sunday at Toronto.
The Rays' Harold Ramirez runs the bases after hitting a two-run home run, also scoring Wander Franco, in the fifth inning Sunday at Toronto. [ JON BLACKER | AP ]
Published Jul. 3|Updated Jul. 3

TORONTO — Maybe Saturday really was the start of something.

After being revived and revitalized in the doubleheader sweep of the Blue Jays a day earlier, the Rays offense kept rolling on Sunday in a 7-3 victory.

“Really encouraging,” manager Kevin Cash said. “We should be feeling pretty good right now. The bats have kind of come to life. Want to see that kind of continue as much as possible.”

The highlight Sunday was a six-run fifth inning, the Rays’ biggest outburst in a single frame all season. And it included three home runs — also their most for any inning — with Harold Ramirez, Ji-Man Choi and Randy Arozarena going deep.

For the three games, the Rays scored 24 runs and rapped 41 hits, their most of either over any three-game span since early September last year. That’s quite a change for a team that scored just nine runs total over a four-game losing streak coming into Saturday.

“The production has been great,” Arozarena said, via team interpreter Manny Navarro. “Everyone’s been producing one way or another everyone’s been getting good results. ... Hopefully we can continue going in Boston.”

Randy Arozarena (56) runs the bases after hitting a two-run home run, also scoring Isaac Paredes, in the fifth inning.
Randy Arozarena (56) runs the bases after hitting a two-run home run, also scoring Isaac Paredes, in the fifth inning. [ JON BLACKER | AP ]

After taking the last three of the five-games-in-four-days series, the Rays improved to 43-36 as they head next to Fenway Park for another tough intradivision series, starting with Monday’s holiday matinee.

The three-game showing not only improved their standing but has them better positioned mentally to keep making up ground.

“It’s very good because our confidence is going to go up,” Ramirez said. “That’s what we need. We need our confidence to do our job, winning every day.”

Good starting pitching, as usual, also was a factor in their weekend wins.

Sunday, rookie Shane Baz had to battle his way through six innings, allowing seven hits and two walks while throwing 90-plus pitches for the second straight start, but only a single run, repeatedly shutting down Toronto threats.

“Look, the biggest pitches of his career are going to come with guys on base,” Cash said. “He tested that pretty well (Sunday). But he got a couple of big double-play balls and it seemed like he had a knack for dialing into the strike zone and the stuff as guys got on base.”

Baz, in his typical 23-year-old laidback style, said it was all part of the experience.

“Obviously they were hitting the ball; that’s an insane lineup,” he said. “(They were) just kind of taking what I was giving them at the time and hitting good pitches. At that point, you’ve got to kind of just keep your focus and not let anything kind of sway that. So I thought I did a good job navigating that.”

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Shane Baz throws to a Blue Jays batter in the first inning.
Shane Baz throws to a Blue Jays batter in the first inning. [ JON BLACKER | AP ]

Plus, he said he kind of enjoyed the challenge.

“You definitely like getting in the fire a little bit,” he said. “I think it helps you realize what you need to do and what your best stuff is and kind of forces you to lock it in and use it.”

The game was 1-1 until the Rays broke it open in the fifth, chasing another of Toronto’s second-tier starters in Ross Stripling. They sent nine to the plate and scored six, five of which came with two outs.

Hits by Taylor Walls, who earlier pulled off a swift double play, and Yandy Diaz got them one. Next was a Wander Franco single and a homer down the leftfield line by Ramirez — who Kevin Kiermaier said they are now calling “Barreled” rather than Harold, given his proclivity for hitting balls with the barrel of his bat.

Choi greeted reliever Trent Thornton with a homer to rightfield that made it 5-1. Isaac Paredes, who had another multi-hit game, singled and then Arozarena homered to center, his first since June 10 and eighth overall.

“Anytime we can get crooked numbers like that, we’re going to take it,” Cash said. “They’ve kind of been few and far between here as of late. So it’s nice to see that between (Saturday) and (Sunday) we’re doing that.”

After Saturday’s sweep, Cash said it was good to see the hitters, given how much they grinded through weeks of struggles, smiling and happy after a game.

And Sunday? “They’re still smiling.”

‘• • •

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